No pain, no gain when it comes to managing virtualization

* The dangers of taking x86 server virtualization too lightly

Virtualization is the darling of the technology industry right now, but more and more industry watchers are warning IT managers about the dangers of taking x86 server virtualization too lightly.

At HP Software Universe last week, analysts used their time presenting sessions to discuss exactly what pitfalls IT managers could encounter if they don't plan their deployment, test and appropriately manage their virtual server environment. Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner, presented data at the conference that shed some light on exactly what challenges widespread virtual server implementations will bring.

For one, virtualization will drive IT to change the structure of its organization, Haight said. Because virtualization touches multiple IT domains, those charged with deploying and managing the technology will need to also have some reach into several areas of IT.

"X86 server virtualization is causing us to reevaluate how we design our IT infrastructures, and along with ITIL, it will change the structure of organization support," Haight told attendees at the show. He added virtualization has "caused just a few ripples in the infrastructure management place. Will virtualization manage us or will we manage it?"

Haight said IT organizations are failing in their approach to "operationalize" virtual server investments and that IT managers can expect their total cost of ownership and risk exposure to increase rather than decrease if they rapidly build and deploy virtual servers without a plan in place to maintain, control and manage the environment.

"Every time I see a benefit created by virtualization, it also introduced a challenge," Haight said. "Taking the same approach to managing virtual as we do physical … in the long run is a dangerous proposition."

The list of challenges includes increased risk of non compliance, security exposures, lack of appropriate skills, lack of management expertise in virtual servers, lack of insight into application compatibility on virtual machines and increased costs trying to rein in an environment gone haywire. Among the tasks IT managers need to consider when going virtual are: design, test, administration, monitoring, management, automation, security, compliance and optimization.

"Procuring the appropriate management technology should follow once the other steps in the process have been completed," Haight said.

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