Managing Service Levels in a Virtual World

Michael Vizard

One of the core challenges that every IT organization faces as it moves to reduce costs by embracing virtualization is figuring out how to guarantee levels of service.
The quality of service associated with any given application has never been a simple thing. But with the advent of virtualization, the potential that performance issues with one application will create a cascading effect on other applications increases.

In fact, it's this very concern that limits the deployment of mission-critical applications on virtual servers, which in turn is contributing to what is generally referred to as a "period of virtualization stall" in which the rate of adoption for virtualization starts to slow.

To tackle this issue, Chris Cook, general manager of CA Technologies' Service Assurance business, says IT organizations need to take a step back from thinking about IT infrastructure in order to focus more on IT services. What Cook means is that not all IT services are created equal. In order for an IT organization to effectively manage those services, it needs tools that provide visibility into what is actually happening at the virtual machine layer. Only then will the IT organization have enough confidence to make an irrefutable case, backed up by a service-level agreement (SLA), concerning the quality of service that can actually be delivered via virtual servers.

Cook also notes that visibility into the virtual machine layer gives IT organizations the information they need to create financial incentives for applications owners to move to virtual servers. After all, if application owners want physical infrastructure all to themselves, it stands to reason they should pay more for that than they are willing to share infrastructure. But you can't bill people for a service that isn't measured.

In short, what Cook is driving at is that too many organizations are thinking about how to manage virtual machines, rather than the services that depend on them. And as long as that's the case, most IT managers won't be able to overcome resistance to virtualization no matter how efficiently they manage their overall environment.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 2, 2011 9:34 AM Harry Quackenboss Harry Quackenboss  says:

Based on what IT people tell us, a major barrier is the limitations of available automation tools. Managing an SLA means managing in a holistic polymorphic sense, servers, virtual machines, Ethernet switches, load balancer policies, the data bases and the applications, often spanning departments. Many organizations don't have an accurate picture of what they have and the interdependencies, and their ops are too dynamic to accurately track manually. The available tools typically require universal adoption with the whole organization in lock step, and/or a big prof services tab to deploy, and more with every change.

Harry Quackenboss, CEO, LAYERZngn


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