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Virtualization performance management: Myths and realities

By Nathanael Iversen, director of technical marketing, Xangati, special to Network World
April 16, 2012 10:06 AM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Performance management has become the key element in maximizing any virtualization initiative, but many myths have emerged that, left unchecked, can stall an entire virtualization initiative. Here are the biggest myths and the corresponding realities to enable IT to chart an informed path forward and successfully scale deployments.

Myth No. 1: VI and desktop administrators only need to worry about server metrics.

Reality: Performance management tools must be able to analyze information across all IT silos -- from the end user, to the application, to the network, to servers, VMs and storage -- covering both the physical and virtual metrics. Without this data, administrators cannot accurately pinpoint and troubleshoot potential performance issues, such as when there's a clash of resources across the WAN or a storage latency issue.

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Myth No. 2: It is impossible to fully capture the end user experience as it happens.

Reality: Performance management solutions must capture the end user experience in order to ensure end user satisfaction, identified as the No. 1 factor in determining the success of any VDI implementation. If users can trigger a DVR recording of their activity when problems occur, administrators can capture the real-time load on the infrastructure, such as CPU, memory, storage and the interactions of the desktop. A recording like this gives users a simple and proactive way to immediately communicate with IT as soon as they encounter performance problems -- instead of trying to explain what went wrong after the fact.

Myth No. 3: Performance management doesn't have to be live.

Reality: To ensure performance of a virtualized infrastructure, you must deal with information associated with a huge number of objects in a live and continuous fashion. Without live, interactionally focused performance management you only have partial picture of what's happening in your infrastructure. Second-by-second insight allows IT to see what set of interactions caused a particular performance shift; this 'liveness' allows for triage versus post-mortem analysis.

Myth No. 4: Capacity planning and performance monitoring deliver the same functionality.

Reality: Capacity planning and performance management provide complementary capabilities at opposite ends of the time scale. Capacity planning is useful to identify long-term, slow-moving trends that may affect production systems in the future. It can also be used in scenario-planning exercises to determine things such as the number of additional desktops that can be added to a VDI cluster. Performance management, on the other hand, is the only way to catch fast-moving contention events that occur in mere seconds or minutes.

Operationally, performance management is used every day to inspect the infrastructure as it dynamically shifts and flexes to accommodate user and application load. In production networks, performance management covers the immediate day-to-day requirements of understanding, troubleshooting and optimizing virtual data centers; capacity planning provides a long-term, future-facing view of slower moving events.

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