Virtual Stall or a Virtual Wall?

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Top 10 Benefits of Virtualization

Virtualization has taken a firm hold at most enterprises these days, but the fact is we've only just begun to unleash the true potential of the technology.

New research is starting to confirm what many have suspected for some time: Server virtualization gets to about the 30 percent-plus mark and then stalls.

The reasons given for this phenomenon are legion. Some argue that it's a management/control issue, while others point to the increased stress that virtualized server architectures place on network and storage resources. Still others claim it is merely a temporary lull that enterprises normally take in order to build experience with the more fluid data environments that virtualization fosters.

That latest survey from Veeam Software, for instance, holds that about a third of all servers in the enterprise universe have been virtualized, with the average organization hosting 470 virtual machines on 113 physical servers. And while more than 80 percent of those surveyed had plans to increase their level of virtualization, large numbers reported concerns surrounding reliability and hardware refresh requirements as major barriers to further deployment.

Those numbers jibe with an earlier Veeam study that showed enterprises were having trouble integrating virtual infrastructure into their traditional management platforms. In particular, there is a problem when the selection of standard management frameworks is based on ease of use, rather than overall performance.

To be sure, this is the kind of data you would expect from a company that specializes in virtual management. Even when independent research is available, you'll find many vendors are very adept at citing it in justification of their solution. For example, Arrow Electronics, a VAR for CA Technologies, draws heavily on recent IDC studies in a recent pitch for CA's virtual infrastructure management and optimization platforms. There's no reason to doubt the sincerity of the research or Arrow's belief in CA solutions, but it does beg the question: Is overcoming virtual stall simply a matter of deploying the right management stack?

Not on its own, according to tech consultant Steve Kaplan. Management software can add tremendous flexibility to both physical and virtual environments, but without a major organizational attitude adjustment that reflects the new virtual reality, virtual stall will likely be a fact of life. The problem, he says, is that too many enterprises approach virtualization with a physical infrastructure mindset. This results in a compounding of all the old bugaboos that plagued traditional operations: lack of effective processes, resource isolation, IT structures not aligned with organizational goals and the like. Rather than try to cram virtualization into the architectures of the past, enterprises should use it as a building block for the future, namely as the foundation for cloud and IT-as-a-service environments. In this way, you can begin to evaluate virtual systems according to their ability to suit your new goals rather than as raw technology in need of deployment.

There's no question that virtualization is a game-changer for IT infrastructure, and organizations looking at it simply in terms of consolidation and cost reduction are selling themselves short. However, it's also true that the reasons for virtual stall are probably as diverse as the enterprise industry itself, with each organization facing a unique set of challenges.

In that sense, virtual stall is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, it's nice to see steady progress with such an effective technology, but it also provides a chance to step back, evaluate your situation and decide where you want to go from here.

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Jul 18, 2011 11:18 AM Clint Clint  says:

Having spent a lot of time in the virtualization universe as an early adopter, I truly believe the biggest problem is exactly what Steve said.

I have worked in organizations of all sizes and can say the problem is pretty universal when you have senior leaders that are reluctant to force process change across the organization. One particular company (large enterprise) that I worked for on the Virtualization architecture team, had a serious problem where it kept the exact same process for getting storage, network, etc. What happened was that it took almost as long to get a simple VM as it did a full hardware solution. The VPs were ready to pull the plug on virtualization saying it had no benefit. There was a lot of explaining we had to do to finally get them to understand that the mentality has to change.


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