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Virtualization: Why you need it and where?

There is increasing hype of virtualization and vendors pulling each other in all corners to grab the market share. Sure some will succumb to smooth talk and even have some cool 3D graphical charts of how their product is better than others by running the fastest "Virtualized Clustered HA Notepad datacenter" on a laptop!

Anyways all this has a negative effect on the GuestOS's and the applications that will eventually run on it. This meaning, you have your OS which is constantly forgotten. (I faced the same issue several times when my Avastu Associate in India did a virtualization project in Europe). The SysAdmins and Managers were constantly asking about the OSs and applications.

And they should ask these questions. A sysadmin has to learn a new technology and still worry about other issues like his OS and application admins and developers have to also look it from a different perspective. Fortunately developers are already developing a lot of applications on virtualization platforms.

It is very important to address issues that the client is facing at hand. The clients should also think of several scenario's themselves.

  • How should I make may applications and OSs more lean and mean for the physical environment. Simple words: Enhance performance first on physical layer and then push them to Virtual layer.
  • Is there a possibility of migrating a typical Windows 2003 print servers to a dumb plain console based Linux servers? (I have however heard that Windows too can be run console based - Longhorn will provide that, they say)
  • How about doing a pilot on the same?
  • Costs and TCO always works but are the metrics (data center OS management : CPU,Disk, Memory usage hourly,daily,weekly,quarterly,etc) really correct?
There are even organizational issues like a Sysadmin today does his thing, Network Admin does his thing, DBA does his thing and so on. Managers have constant problems in making them to work together in tandem. In the project we noticed that a SAN admin was reluctant to let a Network guy come in to ask questions on the Virtual Arrays. While in a typical "Legacy Workplace"this might be a petty issue and the network admin ought to mind his own business and the Sys Admin does his chores.

When we introduced VMware and Akimbi (now VMware Lab Manager) it was not easy. But the message was heard. That is exactly what I mean by "Changing the Work Ethics". CEOs on the top have serious issues with their departments and divisions. Making people work together sometimes just does not work! Imagine how detrimental is that for your business. In today's world everyone is in dire need to get motivated and start innovating on whatever business they might me in (Sales, Education, Govenrment, Telecom) and time is on nobody's side. The development cycles are fast! A win yesterday will not secure a solid tomorrow anymore.

But the good news is that deploying a suitable virtualization solution can be a boon to you. If you have done your homework well (OS, Applications and other legacy dependencies) you will move faster than ever with virtualization. A these are just small steps. You can take it and deploy it everywhere. But do understand properly what a particular solution can do for you.

One typical example was attempting to deploy a DL 380 AMD ESX 2.5 box for RDP and guess what application were they trying? AutoCAD! And I am not saying that it is not possible but besides the limitations of how a thick applications can behave "over ethernet" there were several local issues (application itself: installation etc) that weren't fixed and other metrics were not evaluated before they went on to try it out. It would be unfair to declare the ESX as not workable for an application.

And all these are issues of pushing a market champion product like esx to the limit. Other vendors have not yet tasted all that yet. And VMware was not involved at all, it was a reseller trying out that stunt! It is like expecting to go with a Oracle RAC application across blades, running it (I've done it on ESX 2.5, 3.0) and then asking for a TPC entry. There are many things that you need to take into account when pushing such application to virtualization. So do not forget your Guest OSs and Applications as they need to be taken care of before moving to a Virtualized environment.

So do adopt virtualization but do check what you are going for and if your homework is all done!


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