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Vendor virtualization support statements: Ignore them?

While the larger technology ecosystem has fully adopted server virtualization, there still are countless line of business applications that have blanket statements about not supporting virtualization. Infrastructure teams across the land have adopted a virtualization-first infrastructure deployment strategy, yet occasionally applications come up that aren't supported in a virtual environment.

The ironic part here is that if you ask why, you could be quite entertained by the answers received. I've heard everything from vendors simply not understanding virtualization to things such as a customer trying to run everything on VMware Workstation or VMware Server. But the key takeaway is that most of the time, you will not get a substantive reason as to why a line of business application is not supported as a virtual machine.

In an earlier part of my career, I worked for a company that provided line of business software to an industrial customer base. Sure, we had the statement that our software was working as close to real-time as you will find in the x86 space, but customers wanted virtualization. We had a two-fold approach to see if virtualization was a fit. The first was to make sure the hardware requirements could be met, as there may have been custom devices in use via an accessory card that would have stopped virtualization as a possibility. For the rest of the installation base, if all communication could be delivered via Ethernet we'd give it a try, but reserve the right to reproduce on physical. The reproduce on physical support statement is a nice exit for the software vendors to really dodge a core issue or root cause resolution for a virtualized environment.

In 2010, I see plenty of software that I know would be a fine candidate for virtualization -- yet the vendor doesn't entertain the idea at all. The most egregious example is a distributed application that may have a number of application and Web servers with a single database server. The database server may only have a database engine, such as Microsoft SQL Server installed, and no custom configurations or software. Yet the statement stands that virtualization isn't supported. Internally, I advocate against these types of software titles to the application owners. The best ammunition I have in this case is support and availability. It comes down to being able to manage it twice as good on a virtual machine at half the cost. The application owners understand virtualization in terms like that, and I've been successful to help steer them towards titles that offer the same functionality and embrace virtualization.

I don't go against vendor support statements in my virtualization practice; however I've surely been tempted. I don't know if I'll ever get a 100 percent virtual footprint. Yet I do measure my infrastructure's virtualization footprint in terms of "eligible systems." So, I may offer a statement like 100 percent of eligible systems are virtualized in this location.
How do you go about software vendors that offer the cold shoulder to virtualization? Share your comments below.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 05/03/2010 at 12:47 PM


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