Government Technology

Gartner Identifies Six Best Practices to Consider Before Server Virtualization



April 23, 2008 By

Virtualization will be the most-important trend for servers through 2012, but there are six basic best practices enterprises should consider before they virtualize their servers, according to Gartner.

While the return on investment (ROI) is compelling, virtualization can be implemented badly in costs, management strategy, approach, architecture and software. Many of these problems can be avoided if enterprises make the proper assessments before they virtualize their machines.

"In the next five years, the immature server virtualization market will mature, as competition evolves and forces changes in pricing," said John Enck, vice president and research director at Gartner. "Most enterprises can't afford to wait for the market to mature -- server sprawl, data center space and power problems are here now. Organizations deploying at least 50 virtual machines per year will be able to build a business case with rapid ROI now."

"With the right virtualization approach and strategy, and with a long-term plan on the changes that virtualization will make to server management processes and tools, enterprises will effectively leverage virtualization now and will re-architect their servers to become a more efficient, fluid pool of dynamic capacity," said Thomas Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Not only will data center space and power problems be resolved, at least temporarily, but IT will become a much more efficient and flexible provider of server capacity to its customers."

Analysts have had thousands of client interactions on x86 server virtualization since 2001, and the most-common questions revolve around best practices for starting a server virtualization project. Based on conversations with more than 1,000 clients who are on their way to a mature virtualized server architecture, Gartner has identified the six best practices to consider for companies virtualize their servers.

Start Small, Think Big

Although OEMs and consultants will recommend large-scale server virtualizations, Gartner advises that from a cost, management and cultural point of view, starting small is the right way to go. There are two very different phases to server virtualization deployments. The first phase focuses on server consolidation, cost savings and increased hardware use. The second phase is more strategically important, more complex to implement and provides far more value for the customer. In this phase, the focus shifts to delivering new services or improving the quality and speed of service.

Require a Rapid ROI

Because the market (and therefore pricing) is evolving rapidly, organizations need to build a business case with a rapid return on investment. Gartner recommends that a business case for server virtualization should show a full return on investment within six months or less. Generally, companies deploying 50 virtual machines or more in a year will be able to make a good business case.

Virtualize the Right Applications

Not every application is a good choice for virtualization. In particular, applications with high input output needs can be inefficient on virtual machines and applications that are effectively utilizing established hardware are not going to generate savings. The best applications to focus on tend to be older, smaller packaged applications. The majority of virtual machines today are deployed in production roles, usually less-critical servers but increasingly in mission-critical roles.

Define Your Storage Strategy

Deciding how and where to store virtual images and application data are critical factors in determining how much agility companies get from virtualized deployments. For example, if a company stores virtual images on a direct-attached storage, then they will limit the ability to replicate or recover those virtual images, especially in the event of a failure. If the images are stored on a central storage system, then companies have the flexibility to access virtual images from any server connected to the storage system.

Understand Software Issues

Virtualization has been such a rapid market trend that the software vendors are still in react mode in terms of their pricing and licensing for virtualized environments and their support policies. Gartner predicts that software pricing and licensing will remain problematic for the near future. Until new pricing models are found, users should seek to understand independent software vendor's (ISV's) pricing and licensing policies in as much detail as possible and accept that until ISV issues are resolved, smaller servers will be the norm.

Combine Virtual Machines Effectively

It is much more important to come up with a flexible process for dynamically relocating server capacity than it is to devise a perfect static consolidation mapping. Workloads change and being able to deal with these changes dynamically is a key goal, particularly in the early stages of virtualization.

 


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