Managing your VMware environment in four simple steps

* Managed services provider GlassHouse Technologies offers its advice

When it comes to managing virtual server environments, two distinct camps have emerged. One side argues that virtual machines require the same care and feeding as their physical counterparts, just multiplied by 100 because VMs proliferate at a faster pace. The second camp contends that VMs introduce new, unique challenges not before seen in the physical realm.

Managed services provider GlassHouse Technologies recently detailed in a white paper the four key steps its team of consultants believe enterprise IT managers need to take in order to properly manage virtual environments.

Here are just a few of the points the company details in its comprehensive white paper.

1. Implement an effective cost model: Unlike physical machines, VMs can quickly eat up acquired capacity without anyone noticing. To combat a capacity drought or prevent underutilized VMs sprouting up across the environment, GlassHouse says organizations need to define a cost model for VMs and establish a chargeback policy.

"The environments that work out their VM cost/chargeback strategy early tend to be very successful very quickly," the white paper reads. "But the environments that don't implement this system tend to run into capacity issues or overspend on capacity very quickly and miss their ROI targets.

2. Provide visibility: Monitoring an IT environment requires staff to be able to collect metrics from infrastructure components. Because some require agent software be installed on every managed device, not all traditional IT management products can get a clear picture into the virtual environment -- never mind discover application dependencies among physical and virtual servers.

"In order to ensure success in your virtualized environment you need to be proactively looking for potential trouble and remediating the problem before it can become a showstopper," GlassHouse says. "Numerous virtualization projects have been put on hold due to performance problems that could have been found beforehand."

3. Integrate the virtual infrastructure into your configuration and change management procedures: Mature management processes call for changes to be requested and approved. But in an environment as dynamic as a virtual data center, GlassHouse says, many IT managers are curious as to how many VM changes they can push through this scheduled and sometimes lengthy change management process.

"There are a number of new changes/procedures being introduced into the environment. Each of them should be accounted for in your change control procedures and approval levels should be developed early on so as not to cause issues with early adopters," the white paper explains.

4. Develop scheduled maintenance plans: Despite their dynamic nature, virtual servers can be left dormant, consuming compute and storage resources while not necessarily being useless to the business. GlassHouse recommends IT departments establish maintenance schedules for VMs upfront to prevent a valuable resource from going to waste.

"Post deployment maintenance plans are critical to performance and stability. You need to ensure that these systems are not just set up and left alone for months at a time," GlassHouse says. "Patches should be reviewed and implemented, cleanup on the hosts and log reviews should be completed, and performance and stability should be maintained."

I want to hear from you. Which camp are you in? Have you maintained existing processes for virtual servers? Or did you approach the environment with new techniques and tools? What would you say is the most notable difference between managing your physical and virtual worlds? Let me know.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.