According to Jerry Melnick, CTO of Marathon Technologies, planning is the biggest part of moving to a virtual environment. Fortunately, while planning can be complex to carry out if you have a complex environment, there are only a few things you need to think about to get started.
As demand rises for IT managers and C-level executives to embrace
virtualization, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my insights into
adopting server virtualization. The five tips below are designed to help
companies determine if server virtualization is right for them, and how they
should prepare to ensure a successful initial implementation.
Tip #1: Make the business case for server virtualization
Before implementing server virtualization, IT executives should assess
whether the technology will provide a reasonable return on investment. They
should first take a look at how they are using servers today and ask themselves
the following four questions:
1. Do we have common applications running on a number of different servers?
2. Do we have enough servers that could and should be consolidated? Is the
number of applications increasing and the capacity required for the
applications continuing to expand?
3. Do we expect the number of servers we have to buy each year to increase?
If so, by how much?
4. Is our business planning to undertake other large-scale technology
implementations, and, if so, how will this fit with a possible virtualization
In short, the IT department has to make a strong business case and justify
the virtualization investment to ensure executive management support. To help
conduct a quick assessment, ROI calculators are available from a number of
Tip #2: Consider the license and support implications
IT managers need to investigate what, if any, impact virtualization will
have on their application licenses and support. Depending on the application,
the original licensing terms and conditions may no longer apply after the applications
have been migrated to the virtualized environment. In addition, it may be that
the providers of some of the software applications do not support
virtualization systems, and are unwilling to offer technical support for the
applications after the migration to a virtualized environment.
Tip #3: Afford to spend the time to plan
As any IT professional knows, implementing a new system requires dedicated
resources, budget and time. Industry experts have estimated that the planning
stage constitutes 90 percent of a virtualization implementation project. The
actual migration is relatively simple to undertake, provided that the
implementation has been well-planned. Any system information to be migrated
should be collated and backed up-up to six months before the start of the
IT managers should remember to assess how much hardware each virtual machine
needs in order to operate efficiently. They also need to ensure that the number
of virtual environments residing in a single hardware does not sprawl out of
control. If it does, this could have serious consequences on the stability of
the environment and application availability. A thorough implementation plan
will help businesses minimize any hiccups that might arise.
Tip #4: Assess levels of application availability and risk to business
Despite the many benefits of virtualization, businesses are beginning to
realize that there are risks associated with the technology. While
virtualization is useful for protecting applications from planned downtime,
protecting virtual environments from unplanned downtime is a different matter.
Today, the cost of just a few minutes of unplanned downtime can be hugely
detrimental and, with virtual environments, the risk is greater because server
consolidation often results in a single point of failure for multiple
applications. Businesses should therefore consider a solution that combines
virtualization technology with the high-availability protection necessary to
keep the business going through disruptions.
Tip #5: Demonstrate that virtualization won't have a negative impact on
After the implementation, it is critical to demonstrate to executive
management that virtualization can be accomplished without hindering
application performance and without diminishing service to end users. IT
managers should closely monitor the performance of initial deployments and, if
necessary, modify hardware and networking configurations to ensure that the
virtual environment is completely transparent to users.
Emerging virtualization technologies are opening doors by removing existing
barriers of entry such as cost and complexity. More and more businesses of
different sizes are starting to reap the benefits of server virtualization. But
before embarking on a virtualization project, organizations should assess their
needs carefully, choose the right technology, make sure the implementation
doesn't affect end-user performance and start small.
Jerry Melnick is CTO at Marathon Technologies, the leading provider of automated, fault tolerant-class availability solutions for virtual and physical environments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.