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Victory over Virtual Sprawl?

Virtual sprawl is an insidious, expensive condition that is a pain in the neck to diagnose and defeat. It can devour software license budgets, keep administrators working overtime and eventually create a need for an excessive amount of physical servers and disks. It may be an out-of-sight, out-of-mind situation, but it is real, and it will not go away anytime soon of its own, altruistic accord.

In an attempt to describe the ramifications of this condition -- and win new customers -- Embotics, which sells a product called V-Commander -- produced a white paper entitled "Understanding Virtual Sprawl," in which the causes and cures for this malaise are layed out for readers.

After surveying its customers to better understand the costs associated with VMs, the company came to the conclusion that there are four primary virtual sprawl culprits: infrastructure, management systems, server software and administration. It then goes on to explain how those four culprits have been marked by "shortcuts, broad standards, and simplistic operational policies."

The white paper takes a look at four types of virtual sprawl, including unused VMs, resource sprawl, offline VMs, and out-of-inventory VMs. Noting that VM lifecycles may last for years or minutes, Embotics says the failure to manually "decommission" unused VMs allows them to continue using "valuable resources, but not actually serving any real purpose." Addressing resource sprawl, the white paper says that in the course of allocating or reserving a constant amount of VM resources, the end result may be the assignment of excessive storage for individual VMs. Regarding offline VMs, it claims they cost as much as their active counterparts, pointing out that one customer discovered it had sunk $50,000 into disk and license costs for 42 VMs that had been offline for some three months. On the topic of out-of-inventory VMs, Embotics asserts that there are two steps to decommissioning VMs -- removing them from the VirtualCenter or vCenter inventory, and deleting them -- and the failure to complete step two leads to the VM image becoming "invisible," and allowing it to eat up valuable storage space unabated.

So what is the bottom line of all this sloth? Making its best guess, Embotics states, "On average, an environment of 150 VMs will have anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 locked up in redundant VMs." If your organization can afford that -- and you buy their spiel -- Embotics will be more than happy to sell you a copy of V-Commander, which it claims will summarily excise virtual sprawl from your company.

Some of the many other vendors peddling this kind of peace of mind include: VKernel, Catbird, Colama, DynamicOps, Splunk, and Netwrix, which offers a freeware version of its Virtual Machine Sprawl Tracker.

How does your company fight virtual sprawl? Let me know by posting a comment below or e-mail me.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 12/09/2009 at 12:48 PM


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