What's the toughest thing about managing virtual infrastructure? It seems that depends on the kind of management you have in mind.
I came across this insightful article by Denise Dubie on PCWorld.com, and it answered a lot questions I have long had over virtual management; namely, how can virtual environments be easier to manage than physical ones as most of the top vendors claim. The short answer is they can, but then again, they can't.
As Dubie's numerous sources point out, virtualization simplifies management when it's tied to things like business intelligence and continuity software, but it can be a real bear when it comes to patching virtual machines, to either correct or update configurations. It's nearly impossible if the patches have been made in the virtual universe.
And all that talk about virtual sprawl? It really shouldn't be too much of a problem as long as the correct provisioning and decommissioning policies are in place.
But that still doesn't mean you can take virtual machine management for granted. In fact, since the entire field is still relatively new, there is ample room for an innovative in-house system to make it on the open market.
That's what Credit Suisse has in mind with DynamicOps LLC, a new company launched out of its Global Research and Development Group to market and sell the Virtual Resource Manager (VRM) system. The application began life as an internal management stack at Credit Suisse, where it has been used to manage thousands of virtual desktops and servers for the financial firm's worldwide operations. The company claims its system reduces provisioning lead times from weeks to mere minutes, allowing resources to be reconfigured to meet changing business conditions.
For the leading virtual providers, good management is moving beyond simple resource allocation to upping the performance factor of virtual machines. VMware's recent purchase of B-hive bears out this trend. The company's B-hive Conductor is a virtual appliance that monitors application performance in both physical and virtual environments and automatically shift resources to those applications that are lagging. The system will likely find a home in both server and desktop offerings.
Archrival Microsoft, meanwhile, has just released the beta version of its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, given a good rundown here by Microsoft's Susana Guedes. Key features include Performance and Resource Optimization for a more dynamic management framework, as well as "intelligent placement" of workloads for optimal load balancing.
At the moment, about the only mistake you can make with virtual resource management is to ignore it. Virtualization has a way of starting out small in most enterprises and then quickly gathering steam once all the benefits become known, for users and admins alike. Keeping ahead of the curve is a crucial strategy even for those who are just getting their virtual feet wet.