How to Ensure Your Virtualization Initiatives Effectively Support Applications and Users

By Scott Herold  |  Posted 2009-01-15

Effectively managing applications that leverage a virtual infrastructure can be an elusive goal. However, the aforementioned challenges can be addressed by better understanding the virtual infrastructure, and by managing the relationships and interaction between all the components in the virtual environment.

Ultimately, being able to correlate the events occurring in the virtual infrastructure with the entire application environment helps you determine the root cause of incidents. It can also reduce mean time to resolution for incidents and problems. Let's review the five techniques that IT can use to better ensure that their enterprise's virtualization initiatives effectively support applications and user satisfaction objectives.

Technique #1: Better understand how the virtual environment impacts the entire application

Visualizing the entire virtual infrastructure in a single view allows you to clearly see the multiple resources concurrently in use across the many layers of the environment-including data centers, data stores, clusters, resource pools, ESX Servers and virtual machines. What's more, being able to correlate the events occurring in the virtual infrastructure with the entire application environment helps you determine the root cause of incidents in the virtual environment, as well as reduce mean time to resolution for incidents and problems.

Technique #2: Determine the root cause of an incident or problem before users are affected

The key to determining the root cause of an incident or problem is expertise. Thus, IT needs detailed alarms with recognized industry expertise covering best practices, future predictions, deviations from normal activity and specific operational problems. Tools that can help you determine that there is a problem, convey why it is a problem and recommend ways to resolve the problem are ideal for diagnosing and resolving issues before they impact users.

Technique #3: Track movement of VMs to understand their potential impact on applications and the business

Organizations need to be able to track assets, both in terms of changes to configuration and location, so they can assess the impact of the changes on performance and availability of the dependent application-and on other VMs in the same physical environment. By tracking the movement of VMs, you can better understand their impact on applications and users, as well as determine what happened and why.

Technique #4: Contain alarm storms from VMs and physical servers for a prioritized IT response

By effectively containing alarm storms and turning data into meaningful information, IT can better understand the correlation between infrastructure, host and VM issues. This is an essential tactic for prioritizing problem-resolution efforts and preventing application performance issues that can lead to a poor user experience.

Technique #5: Identify contention for resources between VMs to prevent over-commitment of resources

Organizations need to be able to show the resource impact of moving a VM image from one physical system to another. Using this information, they can determine in advance whether planned moves will unfavorably impact resources, applications and users. Additionally, gathering performance and utilization data at several levels-infrastructure, host and VM-will help identify contention issues.

By having a clear understanding of the core resources and historical trend information, organizations can prevent future problems and proactively plan for the future. As we have established, virtualization offers multiple benefits but also introduces many complexities. Through the five techniques just discussed, IT can more effectively support application and user satisfaction objectives.

 Scott Herold is the Lead Architect of the Virtualization Business Unit for Quest Software, a role to which he brings a decade of industry experience in operating system, network, security and storage design. Scott has been a pioneer in architecting advanced virtualization solutions for many Fortune 100 organizations in R&D and implementation roles. Scott has provided architectural expertise to multiple local and federal government agencies around the world, and continues to provide key information about market and technology trends to Quest's growing virtualization business.

Scott is one of the co-authors of the best-selling "VMware ESX Server: Advanced Technical Design Guide" and the new "VMware Infrastructure 3: Advanced Technical Design Guide and Advanced Operations Guide (No. 3)".

Scott also travels the globe to speak at conferences about how to best overcome both the business and technical challenges of introducing virtualization into organizations. He can be reached at 

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