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Cloud, Virtualization: Wasting IT Resources

By Kevin Fogarty, CIO
February 26, 2010 11:18 AM ET

CIO - Despite enhancements on both cloud and virtual computing products, major vendors aren't taking into account many of the ways even a technology designed to save IT resources can unintentionally waste them.

Some companies are adopting products from relatively obscure third-party companies to keep resource-wasting virtual machines from eating their storage budgets, or add cloud-based computing resources without administrative overhead they can't afford.

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Cloud-computing providers like Amazon, for example, provide a lot of power and flexibility on demand, but it takes too much time for a resource-constrained IT shop to set up or modify, according to Steven Peltzman, CIO of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Peltzman is plotting a long-term virtualization/cloud-computing plan for MoMA, which currently has more than 100 servers, most at less than 50 percent utilization, to support a heavily digitized makeover of the museum and its offerings.

Along with mainstream SaaS, cloud and virtualization providers, Peltzman is is testing Cloudshare Pro, a free service that creates a generic-computing environment IT managers can hand over to business partners, or build to give internal users additional capacity.

Unlike Google's Gmail - which Peltzman likes as a low-cost, highly efficient way to outsource e-mail, Cloudshare isn't limited to a single function. Once created, it provides a portal through which specific users get access to up to six Linux or Windows virtual machines, 10 user accounts and free access to Microsoft Office 2010 or 2007, SQL Server, Oracle and other applications.

"If you're a really good sysadmin with experience setting up huge environments, you can crank those out on Amazon or another cloud to get what you need," Peltzman says. "That still takes time and expertise. With this [Cloudshare] you call up the interface, yank down a menu to load Windows 2000 or XP, yank down this app, that app, and sign up your user. It makes the process less cumbersome."

Even companies that have the time and staff to do heavy engineering work tuning their own systems end up wasting money and hardware in places they don't always examine - like the input/output (I/O) of their virtual servers, according to Roger Johnson, technical lead for the Enterprise Systems Group at high-end audio/video reseller Crutchfield Media, LLC.

Johnson, a Microsoft Hyper-V user who blogs about his success tuning Hyper-V servers to increase their stability and efficiency, says the way virtual machines send data to and from storage devices degrades server performance and wastes storage.

Physical servers sequence data through the I/O bus so that writes and reads to storage are in sequence with their location on the disk, not spread randomly so the hardware wastes time hunting for the right spot.

Virtual machines try to do the same thing, but since they share one machine, they end up dumping all their data on the hypervisor, which is designed for CPU load-balancing, not sophisticated management of data streaming and I/O optimization, Johnson says.

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