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What does it take to manage virtual servers?

Virtualization demands IT managers take a closer look at management processes, tools

By , Network World
November 01, 2007 07:23 PM ET

Network World - Virtualization can help IT managers allocate more resources with less hardware, but not without introducing a slew of management challenges.

Server virtualization makes it possible to run multiple applications and operating systems on fewer hardware resources, which appeals to many IT managers looking to improve utilization. According to a recent Forrester Research poll, respondents have virtualized about one-quarter of their servers and plan to have close to 50% virtualized in two years. As enterprise IT teams look to broaden their server virtualization deployments, it’s important to get in front of the management challenges, according to industry watchers and IT managers.

“Virtualization is a rather addictive technology and IT organizations are spinning out virtual machines faster then they can manage them. The technology warrants a management investment from the start," says Stephen Elliot, a research director with IDC.

For those who are struggling with how to manage virtual machines, here are answers to six important questions.

What’s so tough about managing virtual servers?

How do I curb virtual server sprawl?

Are traditional management tools good enough for virtual servers?

Can tools that come bundled with virtualization hypervisors do the job?

Should I wait for Microsoft to deliver its virtualization hypervisor?

What are my freeware and open source options for managing virtual servers?

1. What’s so tough about managing virtual servers?

Some will tell you that managing virtual machines varies little from managing physical servers, and others will say it depends on what you're managing. But all agree you need to have a comprehensive management plan in place before widely deploying virtualization in production environments.

"Management is not a single discipline. It can range from business continuity planning to patch management," says Andi Mann, a research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). In the case of business continuity planning, virtual servers could be considered easier to manage than physical servers, Mann explains, but when it comes to patching multiple systems, the virtual world introduces complexities. "You can't always be certain if all virtual systems are patched, and obviously that's a problem," Mann says.

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