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Challenges to Server Virtualization Management

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 5/19/2011

Technology has pushed the enterprise into virtualized IT resources to save money and reduce the environmental impact of business. Although we enjoy the benefits of virtualization, we must also recognize the challenges to server virtualization management that they present. Read more about this here.

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    Virualization

    Virtualization is one of the prevailing trends in Information Technology (IT) for several reasons. First, the technology provides for theVirtualization  consolidation of IT resources. Rather than having server capacity and dedicated staff at every location within the enterprise, all necessary servers can be consolidated to one location and run through the enterprise cloud.

    Furthermore, the consolidation goes even further by reducing the number of physical servers required to support the corporate mission. By running virtual servers as images on physical machines, servers can scale to use different amounts of memory, disk space and processing power, even spanning physical machines if necessary.

    Another advantage of virtualization is the opportunity to offload IT staffers from the payroll. Since one person can administer more servers than ever, payroll is reduced and precious office space can be reassigned to other profit centers within the enterprise.

    Finally, regardless of whether or not the political arguments that promote the theory of "climate change" have any merit, one thing is for sure: being able to lay claim to a green corporate environment is prestigious and profitable from a marketing perspective. Virtualization is "green" by nature, giving companies some extra credibility in the marketplace.

    In order to enjoy the advantages of virtualization, however, certain challenges to server virtualization management must be dealt with. Just a few of these challenges are listed below.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Cqq

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    Space, Power and Storage Utilization

    Managing critical resources within the PC virtualized environment is one of the most pressing challenges to server virtualization management management. Because so many machines are concentrated in so little space, power requirements become a consideration that many companies overlook when implementing virtual technology. Power considerations should be central to the design of any new data center, and companies should thoroughly evaluate power requirements before setting up a virtualized enterprise shop in an existing facility.

    Power considerations do not end with establishing suitable circuits to the server room. Power management on each server must be optimized so that power consumption is kept to a minimum without disrupting service. Because virtualization adds new depth to the power management process, steps must be taken to ensure that the physical servers have the best power settings and that management software is being used to set power management at the virtual level.

    Storage space also becomes one of the biggest challenges to server virtualization management. With a sizable investment in virtualization technology, steps must be taken to have servers deployed in ways that make the most of available resources. This objective is not always as easy as it sounds because different virtual servers will have different resource requirements. A careful analysis of each server's resource requirements must be performed to make sure resources are used as efficiently as possible without negatively impacting performance.

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    Continuous Operation

    One of the challenges to server virtualization management is to make sure the virtual enterprise is in continuous operation. By addressing the utilization needs already mentioned, administrators already have a head start to keeping the virtualize enterprise up and running. Still, there are other challenges to operational continuity that must be addressed.

    You can't always shut down a physical server to replace parts on it, nor can you suspend corporate-wide applications to install an upgrade. IT staffers must have the necessary tools and competencies to know how to shift virtual servers around, back them up, and upgrade them without causing unexpected down time. Virtualization offers a lot of features that makes it possible to maintain continuous operation even in the midst of hardware failure, so make sure these features are understood and utilized.

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    Cost Savings and Expectation Education

    One of the challenges to server virtualization management is the need to cut costs. Corporations that sign on to virtualization projects often have technologically illiterate executives and managers who have unrealistic expectations concerning the amount of money they will save. Thus, achieving a level of cost reduction that pushes the limits of the practical can be very challenging. As more demands are put on fewer machines and fewer administrators, degradation of service can often occur.

    While working to accommodate executive and stockholder expectations by keeping costs low, an associated challenge must be addressed: educating key decision makers about the cost implications of virtualization technology. This can be a frustrating task, especially when dealing with people with dollar signs in their eyes having no practical understanding of the challenges to server virtualization management.

    IT staffers preparing to pitch a transition to virtualization should work with vendors and industry groups to provide realistic estimates of implementation costs, operational cost savings, and maintenance costs as well as power and staffing requires before anyone makes the decision to move forward.

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    Summing it Up

    When planning a move to a virtualized environment, a consideration of the challenges to server virtualization management should be included in the process. Virtualization is great technology in a global economy, but everyone involved needs to make sure all of its challenges are effectively addressed.