Staging an IT management evolution

As virtualization becomes mainstream for most IT organizations, the tools to manage and optimize the environments will also be in high demand.

Forrester Research analysts lay out what IT managers must consider when evaluating virtual systems management technologies for their environments.

The time for virtual systems management strategy has come. IT managers with growing virtual environments – servers and desktops – can no longer depend solely upon the management capabilities provided by their hypervisor vendor. With the market flush with start-ups and big players touting additional features, IT mangers should focus on a few key capabilities to keep their virtual worlds in check.

How far has virtual systems management come?

“Like every technology that has come before it, the route to success with virtualization lies in solid, standardized processes and management software to automate and govern the execution of these processes,” reads the Forrester Research report “Managing the Virtual World is an Evolution, Not a Revolution.” “Process discipline and streamlined management automation were already operational mandates, but the advent of virtualization on industry-standard servers exacerbates these requirements. Invest wisely in these technologies to avoid getting stranded with limited point solutions that offer little hope of integration into the broader initiatives for operational excellence.”

According to Forrester Research, four key product categories should be on every IT managers list when considering how to control a virtual environment. The research firm suggests that IT manager first consider configuration management, as this discipline is a must when trying to understand and orchestrate the relationships among a large number of components. Forrester says these tools are usually referred to as provisioning technologies.

The second technology area to focus on is capacity management and virtual machine placement, Forrester says.

“As your virtualized pool grows in size, you will need tools that analyze capacity trends and optimize where your virtual machines run to minimize the hardware footprint,” the report reads. “These tools will be able to alert operations and engineering when resources are running low to guard against overprovisioning. You want to maximize capacity utilization to squeeze the most value from your server investments, but doing so without sufficient visibility is dangerous.”

A third item to consider is performance monitoring. As the number of virtual machines grows in the environment, the ratios of virtual machines to physical hosts also grows and drives up overall utilization, according to Forrester analysts. To prevent performance issues from impacting end users depending on the applications running across virtual machines, IT managers will want to get performance monitoring products in place – to be alerted prior to a slowdown or total failure.

The fourth and final area of technology focus should be on automation. According to Forrester, real-time automation will be needed to keep up with the demand of a sophisticated and dynamic virtual environment.

“Many IT services, like virtualization management, are reaching a level of complexity where sophisticated mathematical algorithms and object models of the servers are more precise and efficient than even your most talented engineers,” the report reads.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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