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When asked why they don’t progress beyond early-stage virtualization deployments, most IT and business leaders will cite one of several common reasons.These include specific challenges — such as controlling virtual machine (VM) sprawl and performing problem isolation – but all the hurdles to fully dynamic virtual datacenters tend to fall under two categories: scaling up with limited IT staff and resources and managing the increased complexity.
Enterprises must solve these issues if they are to realise the potential of private clouds. Doing so will require a pragmatic approach to VM provisioning, monitoring and automation.
Common, solvable obstacles
There are many tasks inherent in properly managing IT infrastructure components, beginning with the virtual and physical servers themselves. While virtualization does reduce the number of physical servers, it typically increases the number of server instances, all of which require administrative time and systems to manage server operating systems, applications and data. VMware’s management consoles (vCenter and VirtualCenter) have proven to be effective, but most organisations find that as the environment scales, the time spent on regular daily and manual tasks becomes all-consuming.
As long as virtualization initiatives are small and focus on simplistic workloads, operations teams can manage easily. However, as the use of virtualization increases, the combination of the increased volume of virtual servers and the increased criticality of the applications means that other management silos in the datacenter need to get involved.
Virtualization, unlike many other technology initiatives, disrupts the status quo. The deployment of IT services in a virtual world requires the coordination and collaboration of teams spanning business operations, security, storage, network, server and applications. Meanwhile, the legacy management, automation, processes, technology and approaches are inadequate for the virtual world.
Therefore, throwing more bodies at the task is not a practical solution. Instead, companies in pursuit of private clouds first need supplementary management, automation and reporting that can help standardize the environment and allow IT teams to manage the virtual infrastructure more effectively and proactively.
The pragmatic path to virtualization
A number of the top virtualization challenges facing datacenters are caused by insufficient real-time information. Issues such as ensuring high availability, fulfilling service requests, capacity management, controlling virtual sprawl, isolating performance and configuration problems, managing across multiple data centres and increased infrastructure complexity, all become easier with the right information available at the right time.
Real-time information about the environment also helps identify roadblocks and needed process changes, as well as simplifying the buy-in process for change and facilitating optimization activities to ensure the biggest bang for the buck. However, enterprise-wide reporting and monitoring, although a good first step, is by itself not enough.
While reporting and monitoring can help simplify some of the complexities, it does little to help automate or proactively control the environment. Furthermore, these capabilities don’t do much to get administrative teams out of the day-to-day manual tasks necessary to keep the infrastructure going and into the demanding task of building the private cloud.
Pragmatism demands the incorporation of virtual machine management and automation. Adequate VM management should include continuous discovery and reporting, just-in-time capacity planning, self-service portals, lifecycle management, provisioning workflows, change and configuration management, resource optimization and policy-based automation. All of these features should function well as individual modules that can be incorporated as needed, but they should also integrate seamlessly to support future, complete private cloud operations.
Great journeys start with initial steps
In a project as all-encompassing as creating the private cloud, one must take practical steps in the right direction. Whether datacenters are stalled out in early-stage virtualization deployments or contemplating the final leap to the cloud, the right step at the right time with the right technology ensures the best outcome.
Regardless of which phase of deployment an individual enterprise is in, a management system is THE key step on the path to the private cloud.
It lets IT teams see all of the various dimensions of the infrastructure from a single pane of glass while automating routine tasks, standardising repeatable processes, identifying roadblocks and inconsistencies, and understanding growth patterns and their impact on the business. Most importantly, VM management and automation lets businesses prioritise their next steps so they can keep moving forward in their pursuit of the private cloud.