VMware vSphere 4.1's new features act as a referee when VMs contend for scarce resources.
VMware vSphere 4.1 has a lot more
moving parts. Memory compression and the addition of I/O controls for
networking and storage, which join those already found in the CPU, are
responsible for this increase.
For data center managers, the new
capabilities are a boon. The features basically act as a referee when VMs (virtual
machines) contend for scarce resources. The additional moving parts also mean
more policy to make decisions that will set out the rules used by these newly
This increase in VM resource
flexibility results in a significant growth in the importance of management
tools and skills. To stay ahead of the pack when it comes to squeezing
productivity out of virtual infrastructure, management tools will gain
importance only when virtualization makes gains in production environments.
This is also true for cloud
resources. In fact it may be even more important for cloud-based resources
because the decision to spin up or take down cloud-based infrastructure is
dependent on automated decision making that must-ultimately will-be governed by
the policies people create.
But let me come back to today's
reality. With the release of vSphere 4.1, an update to VMware's widely deployed
x86 server virtualization platform, data center managers have greater control
over how memory, network and storage resources are allocated among VMs.
Memory compression enables IT
managers to determine how physical memory will be apportioned between VMs and
the physical host to minimize swapping memory pages to disk. Network and
storage I/O controls use policy to give some VM workloads priority over others
when there is resource contention.
As of today, these memory, network
and storage controls are a first step in the direction of increased
flexibility. There will be no turning back from this move toward fine-tuning VM
Data center managers who have been
touting virtualization primarily as a consolidation and cost-reduction tactic
must now change gears. To maintain the cost savings associated with
physical-to-virtual or "virtual first" data center consolidation plans,
management tools are required.
Unrelated to VMware specifically,
there are several problems that data center managers will confront along the
road to a fully managed virtual infrastructure.
First, management generates no
revenue. When it comes to cost justification, management is second in
difficulty only to security tools. At least, management tools can demonstrate
their use on a daily basis by generating utilization reports. Security tools
are usually noticed only when they satisfy an audit check box, when they fail
and when the renewal bill shows up.
Second, there is a great deal of
confusion about the amount of management needed in a virtual environment. A
virtualized data center can reduce the importance of individual hardware
failures by enabling workloads to migrate seamlessly. However, that underlying
hardware fault must still be corrected to maintain the resilience of the
Thus, it's not true that data
center managers can just forget about hardware. What has changed is the much
lower level of urgency that now needs to be assigned to hardware break/fix
Third, management is a topic that
only a mother could love. Management tools force data center managers to
operate at a level of arcana that has not been "consumerized." There is very
little in the management realm that appears magical. And it's the one area
where IT staff must focus only on the negative: What's broken, failing,
overloaded or slow.
Very few people on the business
side of your organization want to hear about how the sausage is made: They just
want to enjoy its savory goodness. But somebody has to be the cook, and whether
virtualized or physical, cloudy or sunny, that job falls to IT.