Skip to main content

Three Pitfalls To Avoid When Implementing Server Virtualisation

Virtualisation is almost certainly on the agenda for your IT resource, but what are the main problems that IT professionals come up against when implementing a virtual environment?

It's clear that, with budgets remaining tight all around, IT administrators must think long and hard about how virtualisation can help them in their bid to reduce costs and, of course, how quickly they can see a return on investment (ROI) from possible purchases.

It's important to realise that it not always the case that an organisation will see a net benefit from implementing virtual servers on their IT resource.

Whilst it's relatively easy to prove a positive ROI for most server virtualisation scenarios, this is usually only the case where easily observed fixed and marginal cost accounting procedures are followed.

Unfortunately, in a minority of cases, some of the issues relating to virtualisation are hidden and difficult to predict.

For example, how will the move affect staffing requirements, and what will be the cost of added complexity, such as increased downtime?

Potential pitfall #1 - ignoring the planning requirements

Whilst there might be fewer physical servers, switches and routers in a virtual environment, implementing a virtualisation strategy often means take a much more logical approach.

It's important to realise that virtual devices have to be managed a lot more than is the case with physical servers.

The bad news is that many traditional IT and server networking tools, such as probes, may not spot problems unless specifically created for a virtual environment.

You therefore need to plan for all possible scenarios when planning a virtual server deployment. The more planning, the better, as you will then be prepared for most eventualities.

Potential pitfall #2 - new problems = extra downtime

Just because an IT professional cannot see the problem with their IT resource, does not mean it is not there and in need of some creative action.

Generally speaking, if the IT team does not spend time learning about their new virtual server environment, then the IT resource could possibly even see greater, not reduced, network downtime as IT professionals struggle to get a grip on virtualisation.

Solving this potential issue means turning to your system vendor for assistance and advice on reducing the complexity of the virtual server environment.

This usually means installing some form of management software that allows easy supervision of the virtual environment.

For example, you should consider using a software-based switch which supports role-based user interfaces that align with existing IT roles.

Potential pitfall #3 - ignoring the higher security profile

The advantages of virtualisation are highly compelling, with cost savings at the top of the list.

And nowhere are cost savings highest than when it comes to server virtualisation, including application servers, file servers, Web servers, database and email servers.

For example: your organisation has a data centre with a few hundred servers, many of which are set up and tuned to do one job efficiently. It's likely that a few of those servers are lightly loaded - perhaps running at 50 per cent capacity or less.

With efficient virtualisation, you could combine several of those physical machines, transferring workloads to a single piece of hardware.

As a result you have fewer machines, less cost, less maintenance, less power and fewer environmental conditioning needs, along with lower capital expenses.

But users may have more security problems. There are new challenges that come with virtualisation, because the machine is now the data.

Put simply, in most virtualisation deployments, the virtual machines and associated storage are abstractions - they are essentially data files that only come to life on top of a layer of software, called a hypervisor, hosted in turn by an operating system or server software.

With virtualisation, you can move machines or storage `files' across hosts, back them up to tape, or copy them to disaster recovery sites.

This increased flexibility brings with it a much higher larger profile with many more `attack surfaces' for hackers to attack.

For more information:

IDC reviews IBM's Virtualisation Services capabilities across servers, storage, end-user and networking. Report and video:

Creating a dynamic infrastructure through virtualisation: