The Perils of Virtualization Mismanagement

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Virtualization is starting to become the norm in data centers throughout the world, so it's no surprise that the issue of virtual sprawl is beginning to take center stage as well.


The fact that the ability to house two or more servers on one physical machine can lead to unchecked expansion of these virtual machines -- even while it cuts down on the spread of real ones -- has been well documented since the technology first started to catch fire nearly a decade ago. That's why it comes as a surprise that a large percentage of users have not yet instituted meaningful management plans to keep the number of virtual servers in check.


InformationWeek recently issued the results of its latest reader poll that showed more than half (56 percent) of respondents had no formal mechanism for the orderly transfer of virtual machines from the test lab into production, while another 34 percent admitted to largely ad hoc procedures. And this is in a sampling of users still paying for individual VMware ESX licenses as opposed to the more flexible Hyper-V environment that was only recently introduced.


But if the majority of enterprises still are not convinced of the need for virtual management, they soon will be. According to a recent study by Embotics, a typical virtual environment will see upwards of 30 percent of VMs unused, representing as much as $150,000 in unused resources. Embotics recently launched the V-Commander 2.0 automated lifecycle management system to combat the problem.


The reality of poor virtual management is starting to hit those who should care about money the most: Wall Streeters. This piece on Wall Street & Tech points out that cost pressures are driving the use of virtualization, even though virtual sprawl is deadly to the kind of algorithmic, modeling and simulation software that the financial industry depends on.


So what is the best way to rein in sprawl? Tools abound for increased visibility and tracking, but as BDNA Vice President Walker White shows in this article, a clear set of usage and lifecycle policies is your best weapon. Most organizations already have such policies for hardware and software resources, but they need to recognize that virtual systems are just as valuable and deserving of protection.


It's that last point that bears repeating: Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't contributing to, or detracting from, your bottom line. Virtual management is a tricky game -- you need to foster simultaneous flexibility and control over virtual environments to extract the greatest benefit. But you need to start implementing a management regimen now, before the virtual environment becomes too complicated to control and too vital to ignore.