Virtualization No-No’s: Five Things You Shouldn’t Virtualize

Virtualization No-No’s: Five Things You Shouldn’t Virtualize

August 29

Virtualization is no doubt one of the coolest pieces of tech the computer gods ever came up with. The proven ability to maximize resources, streamline system management, and save real dollars makes it extremely useful in business and personal environments alike. Need to free up space in the server room? Use a hypervisor like VMware ESXi to consolidate and reduce the number of physical machines on site. Need to scale back to create the right environment for some old school Doom? Use Microsoft Desktop Virtualization to run XP beside Windows 8 and blow stuff up on the same box.

We’ve been blessed with an astonishingly capable tool, but that doesn’t mean we should go virtualizing everything in our IT infrastructure. There are some things that are better left untouched.

1. Restricted Software Environments

Software licenses make up one of the few remaining barriers in between virtualization and true widespread adoption. And trust me when I say it’s a barrier you don’t want to just go burrowing through. I ran across this Flexera Software article that points out how the software compliance issue ended up costing one company $52 million.

Maybe the software in questions hiccups in the virtual environment. Maybe it runs just fine. If there are restrictions, the best thing you can do here is play nice and honor the vendor’s license. It may not be anything you catch a case over, but even if you don’t lose millions in compliance fines, you might find yourself up in a thick, raunchy creek should something go wrong and you need a hand from the vendor’s technical support team.

2. Existing Workhorses

Virtualization can be one of the thoroughbreds that drives your organization, but there are some individual powerhouses within your infrastructure that are better left alone. Some applications pig out on resources and will get quite testy if they have to struggle for the disk I/O, RAM, and processing power they need to thrive. Database systems, video streaming servers, and servers running high-traffic websites are classic examples of such workhorses.

No matter how impressive the hardware in the way of specifications and features, every machine has its limitations. Forcing that main application to share resources with new neighbors is going to come at the sacrifice of performance and efficiency perks you may not be able to afford to lose.

3. Earl and Rob

For a minute, think of your two desktop PCs as Earl and Rob. Earl and Rob are two cool dudes who don’t bother anyone. They simply do their jobs and go about their business. Here you come along with some ill-timed offer, proposition, or unsavory shenanigans that totally throw Earl and Rob out of their comfort zone. Now they’ve got problems. With you! If your systems are flourishing in the performance department with plenty resources to spare, it may be best to hold off on virutualization until you really need it. Stretching further left with these analogies, but you guys are getting it. I know it.

4. Tight Wads

Speaking of stretching, one thing virtualization does exceptionally well is stretch out of your resources so you can make the most of what you got. However, you can only do so much pulling and yanking when you’re working with very little to begin with. A server that barely meets the minimum requirements of a given hypervisor may struggle once you get everything installed, up and running. In this case, that tight wad of a box is going to perform considerably better without the strain of virtual environments bogging it down.

5. Anything That Can’t Be Slightly Compromised

Being able to virtualize your infrastructure is a grand luxury when you’re lapping up all the juicy benefits, but getting there isn’t always a bump-free ride. The road there is sometimes congested with barriers such as sluggish performance and downtime until a few kinks are hammered out. If these instances either threaten to eat into your pockets by halting business with customers or stopping production on the back-end, they are better off left as is. After all, why complicate matters when everything is running smoothly?

Like Hulkamania in the late 1980s, virtualization is running wild, treating the IT community to virtual hardware, applications, and robust appliances that fall in both categories. Respect this powerful weapon by wielding it when warranted, and it will deliver delicious benefits when you do decide to use it.

Want more on virtualization? Check out this post on deciding which hypervisor is right for you.

Photo Credit: Horia Varlan via Compfight cc