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Moving Operations Into a Virtual World

How virtualization-aware is your operations team? Not the team that actually sets up VMware or Hyper-V environments, but the team that is in charge of monitoring your entire infrastructure, from physical to virtual? Do the people in the NOC understand the impact of transparent page sharing and memory swamping at the hypervisor level? Do they know what memory ballooning is? These are just some of the new terms and metrics that virtualization has introduced which can have a serious impact on your organization.

Virtual Infrastructure IS Infrastructure
Once you add an abstraction layer between the operating system and the physical hardware, you've just introduced new infrastructure. The operating system doesn't know it's not running on physical hardware even though the physical hardware is just serving up resources. So the hypervisor is doing a lot of work, and it needs to be monitored. The operating systems (and applications) also need to become virtualization-aware as well. Since virtualization serves up the same physical resources for multiple operating systems to share, there's a bit of smoke and mirrors going on that can confuse the typical operating system "management agents." Additionally, when one physical resource starts having a problem, it can affect multiple virtual servers since they're all sharing it.

While there are numerous tools available for monitoring virtual infrastructures, it's important to make sure that the solution you choose fits in with your overall operational framework. Simple SNMP alerts or solutions that rely on running agents on the hypervisor don't work well in today's virtual infrastructures where there's a wealth of important data that needs to be "rolled up" into the standard framework.

Avoid Management Islands
As with any new technology in the data center, virtualization has created a "management island" where one team is responsible for the new technology at the early stages. As virtualization adoption grows within your organization, you need a bridge to get that new infrastructure under your standard management framework. Once virtualization is brought into the operational framework, it then makes wider adoption much easier, as it's no longer a "black box" in the infrastructure. As I've heard several people from Microsoft say, Iit's not about the hypervisor, it's about management."

Posted by Doug Hazelman on 05/24/2010 at 12:49 PM


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