We’ve talked at great length about the benefits of using virtualization for business. Over the last decade or so, those benefits have grown by leaps and bounds. With that said, there are still quite a few issues that if not addressed, can make this uber awesome technology more trouble than it’s worth. These challenges serve as the barriers that are causing some businesses to keep their distance.
1. Determining Individual Needs
One of the most underrated challenges is determining how you should actually put a hypervisor like a VMware or Hyper V to use. Should you be selective and only install them on a couple of servers, or go all out and virtualize everything in the farm? There is no one magical formula that will tell you what you need to do in exact numbers. There are, however, some simple formulas that can help you make an optimal decision.
For example, if you only have a single server that is responsible for running your entire business, it’s probably better off left alone. If anything, you’ll be introducing cost and management complexities you just don’t need to deal with. On the other hand, if you’ve got three to five older or under-performing servers and can use a few more, virtualization is something you should seriously consider. When the fit is right, it can help you get the most from your existing crop and spare you the need of buying new hardware, all while meeting your evolving IT needs.
2. Licensing Restrictions
We recently touched on licensing in a previous article, but will go more in depth about how you should approach that aspect this time around. Unless its your own program you build from the ground up, most software in your application infrastructure is licensed rather than owned. Those licenses dictate what you can do with that software, and since virtualization could potentially change how it behaves or how it’s supposed to function, you have to proceed with extreme caution. If you don’t, you might violate your agreement with the vendor, which opens you up to litigation issues that could get quite messy and expensive.
I’m sure the last thing you need is a blood-thirsty software company coming after you for obliterating their end-user agreement, so before you virtualize, keep these licensing tips in mind:
Evaluate licenses on individual basis. Take a close look at the operating system, enterprise software, end-user programs, and other apps in your existing infrastructure to determine how they will be impacted by virtualization. In addition to thoroughly combing the terms and conditions for potential issues, make sure those licenses fully cover the number of users you need to support.
Talk to vendors. Many vendors realize that a VM-friendly license is in their best interest. Others remain stubborn. If there is an application you consider mission-critical, don’t hesitate to reach out to vendors as some may be willing to make exceptions to accommodate the needs of loyal customers.
Make a plan B. Some vendors just are not willing to budge no matter how much the landscape is changing. In the event that some of your most vital applications are tied to these scrooges, you may need to look for open-source versions of apps with more flexible licenses, or consider delaying your project until those companies come around.
3. Resource Estimations
RAM or memory determines the number of virtual machines you can run on your host hardware. Fail to acquire enough upfront, and your virtual environment may move so sloth-like that it negates any efficiency benefits that come with using this technology in the first place. The problem with memory is accurately predicting the amount you need. Every business has different needs, and every hypervisor has different requirements. The memory component is so tricky that even experts have differing opinions on how to estimate what you need. In this case, it’s usually best to get what you feel will be a large enough capacity to support growth, and stay ready to purchase more memory should the need arise.
4. VM Management
It is possible to easily create dozens to hundreds of VMs on a single host. That’s just dandy, but without proper capacity management, some of those VMs could start gorging on resources and leaving none for others. Now you’ve got a virtual bottleneck that will wreak havoc on the performance of your virtualized system. The good thing is that most of the popular hypervisor products offer tools that allow you to efficiently manage those critical resources. The challenging part is knowing how much to allocate, which is going to depend on the resources in the host machine, the hypervisor running on it, the application you’re using it for, and other aspects specific to your situation.
5. Virtual Backups
With your typical PC, data can be backed up to an actual hard drive. A VM doesn’t have such a luxury, so things are a bit trickier right off the bat. Apparently, this is a challenge that an alarming number of businesses are dealing with. A study conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group showed that virtual backups were the number one IT challenge for over 80 percent of respondents. While backing up a VM can be accomplished with conventional backup software, that whole resource allocation deal we talked about threatens to compromise performance big time.
The best solutions are those specially made to thrive in the virtual environment. ShadowProtect Virtual backs up VMs created from VMware, Hyper V, and other popular hypervisor products. From operating systems and programs to services and data, it makes sure every asset in your infrastructure is protected. When it comes time to recover, your systems can be easily restored to the exact same system, completely different hardware, new virtual environments, or even a cloud platform.
The challenges of virtualization are very real and shouldn’t be ignored. On the bright side, if you address them thoroughly before implementation, you will find that most are relatively easy to overcome.
Ready to get started with virtualization? Check out this article on how to get started.