How IT Pros Can Take Control of Their Virtual World

By Ennio Carboni

Editor’s Note: Occasionally, Enterprise Networking Planet runs guest posts from authors in the field. Today, Ennio Carboni of Ipswitch discusses the challenges of moving to virtualized environments and offers advice on how to make the change a success.

The migration from physical to virtual data centers has created numerous questions and challenges for the IT pros charged with overseeing their successful operations. While some will claim that this technology essentially manages itself, the reality of the situation is that no matter how advanced or sophisticated the modern data center becomes, it will always need a human element: the IT pro. 

For those tasked with keeping the virtual data center running and managing it through migrations to ensure that they are both seamless and painless, here are seven suggestions to help you better manage the process.

1. Don’t Ignore Virtualization

Seems pretty obvious on the surface, but many IT pros were brought up on premises-based technology and are firmly ingrained in this culture. The move to virtualization may not yet be second nature. But virtualization is clearly here to stay, and the quicker your organization gets on board, the sooner it will begin reaping the benefits in terms of cost savings, flexibility, disaster recovery options, and improved availability of IT services. When it comes to virtualization, burying your head in the sand will get you nowhere but last place.

2. When the Network is Down, You are Up

Ask any IT professional what keeps them up at night, and they’ll probably tell you about their fear of a major network failure and prolonged downtime. Most users don’t understand the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to ensurethat the network stays on. When upgrades are required, IT managers often have to give up their evenings, weekends and holidays to ensure that users are not affected by downtime. Managing this challenge through effective scheduling and time management is key to ensuring a successful virtual environment.

3. Cross-Train when Possible

Many IT professionals will need to be trained, not only for their specific role, but also in order to understand how to manage a virtualized environment. In an ideal situation, training across multiple environments will benefit the IT team and the company as a whole, but this is not always possible due to budget constraints and scarcity of resources. As with anything in IT, compromises will need to be made. Be aware of both corporate priorities and areas that need development within teams and individuals to most efficiently allocate training resources.

4. A Single View

While the solitary dashboard or “single pane of glass” that provides insight and perspective to all things IT has long been considered Nirvana, the reality is that very few organizations, if any, actually have that. There will always need to be additional tools for some specific tasks or technologies. However, utilizing a tool that could minimize the current workload will go a long way in making the life of an IT professional a bit easier. Among other things the virtualization and SDN movements can provide more centralized visibility and control across networks and IT silos. Keeping up to date on those technologies will help you discover the most effective solutions for your environment.

5. An Agent of Change

The majority of network issues can normally be traced back to a changing condition within the organization’s network. Because of this, IT managers have been reluctant to implement major changes for fear of creating a chain reaction of issues. But supporters of virtualization cite the ability to create new systems quickly and easily, and to make modifications to current IT systems, as one of its most important benefits.While these two schools of thought naturally conflict, they will need to find a way to co-exist in order to bring organizations the power and flexibility of virtualization without creating instability. As you plan a migration to a virtualized environment, make sure diagnostics and troubleshooting tools are part of your strategy.

6. Strive for a 360 View

There are very few solutions that provide true end-to-end visibility from the back end systems through to the end user’s point of view. Rather, IT is normally faced with the issue of monitoring network activity in silos. This creates a disrupted point of view, where the IT pro can only see a problem to the edge of each pathway and may miss outside influences that affect that silo. This often leaves the server and system admins guessing, rather than implementing solutions based upon hard data. While most of the tools that will enable monitoring from the end user to the ends of spindles are still in the development stage, early adoption will be important for maximizing the potential of your environment.

7. Virtual I/O (Input/Output) becomes a Limiting Factor

The virtualization of many I/O intensive applications, such as databases, has been previously limited by storage I/O. In a virtualized environment, failures in performance and capacity management have the potential for an even greater impact on end users. This risk could be somewhat mitigated by technologies such as solid-state disk (SSD), since the IOPS (Input/Output Per Second) is greater for desktop virtualization and is largely indifferent to server virtualization. However, it does require more expensive, low-latency hardware.  When compared with the costs of a downed network, however, it feels like a wise investment.

IT managers should embrace the power and flexibility of virtualization and not be scared off by the changing nature of the environment. With good planning, the implementation should go smoothly and have little or no impact on the end users. Proper planning also needs to take place regarding the investment in the correct technologies to ensure that virtualization does not compromise network performance.

IT managers need to work together with all IT staff so that everyone understands the best ways to make virtualization work for the business. Virtualization is not going away. Ignoring the benefits will create a competitive disadvantage.

Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Ennio Carboni, IpswitchEnnio Carboni is executive vice president of Customer Solutions at Ipswitch, where he leads the company’s strategy to ensure customer success in their use of IT management and file transfer solutions. Prior to his current position, Ennio was president of the Ipswitch Network Management Division. Ennio has also held leadership positions at CA, IMlogic (acquired by Symantec) and RSA Security.

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