Take Five With Tom Fenton

5 Virtualization Challenges

Just because it's virtualization doesn't make it easy.

During a recent interview with Ben Tao, director of product marketing, Dell Virtualization Solutions, the conversation turned to challenges facing virtualization. As it turned out, those challenges are pretty substantial. Tao's remarks are paraphrased here.

Virtualization Laggards There's a group of procrastinators out there who have yet to adopt virtualization from a production standpoint, preferring instead to relegate it to test and dev -- or not implement it at all. What these laggards don't know is that small and midsize businesses now have access to solutions that will enable them to adopt virtualization in a safe, reliable manner via preassembled virtualization solutions that come complete with rack, servers, storage, networking and power.

Economic Barriers When you look at the cost structures of modern datacenters -- which are partially driven by virtualization -- hardware costs have obviously come down and consume a much smaller percentage of budgets. However, the licensing and support costs associated with the software elements of both the hypervisor and virtualization management have expanded and become a much larger percentage of total spend. It all comes down to economic barriers that prevent some companies from adopting virtualization -- they just don't have enough money.

Good News, Bad News The good news is that virtualization has solved a lot of capital expenditure problems. The bad news is found in a recent white paper written by a VP at Morgan Stanley that said, when you look at the costs of administering a virtual server, it requires nearly the same amount of activity that's required to manage the old physical server. You've still got to initially deploy it, patch it, secure it, update it and at some point retire it. Also, virtual machines are free, so the number of server instances users are running in their infrastructures has gone through the roof. So even if it's 50 percent of the cost of maintaining that virtual image versus a physical server, you have 10 times the number of virtual servers.

Physical Layer Problems Despite its many benefits, server virtualization has created a problem in the physical layer because with virtual infrastructures, users have an expectation that they're able to have a much more dynamic environment. For instance, they can spin systems up more quickly. Or, they might have put a device in place because from a virtual standpoint, it can be easily moved around. The problem is, the underlying physical infrastructure isn't that dynamic and can't keep up with the dynamism of the virtual layer. So when you think about the need to deploy or even change the physical layer underneath the virtual layer, customers have a hard time keeping up from both an operational expense standpoint and from a pure speed standpoint. This is the problem that converged infrastructures are trying to solve.

Meeting Dynamic Demands There's a challenge around virtual server operations management because when users are virtualizing their environments, it's more difficult to spot performance issues because nobody knows where everything resides. Is the storage really on that device, or is it on another tier? Did it move over to that array, and where are the networking connections? Where's that virtual server now, because with Distributed Resource Scheduler it can be moved around and consolidated? Also, because you've abstracted an environment, it's hard to actually diagnose problems and manage performance. When you can't see all the important elements, you can't fix the problems.

About the Author

Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.


Subscribe on YouTube