At this point in the league, almost every modern data center is already working with some form of virtualization technology. Virtualization, by definition, means using one piece of hardware to provide the resources needed by multiple “virtual” machines. Each virtual machine is configured as if it were running on its own hardware.

In the IT field today, managers and CTOs are constantly being asked to do more work with less money, resources and people. And, as many IT departments have discovered, using virtualization can enable just that, using less computing hardware and financial resources.

But to get there with server virtualization, there are a number of things we must do to ensure a smooth transition and the right use of this technology. In today’s article, we’ve broken down the best practices for server virtualization and how to apply them when migrating your business! Follow:

Planning and Defining Workloads

Virtualization offers many benefits. However, if not done correctly, the move to virtualization can reduce current productivity and decrease the availability of critical servers and resources.

Designing and implementing an efficient virtualized environment takes time and a thorough understanding of your needs and available resources. Therefore, it is essential:

  • Set performance goals. It is reasonable to expect near-total utilization of host server resources when spread across multiple virtual machines. But remember that all servers, virtual and physical, must have enough resources to perform the assigned tasks;
  • Pay attention to hardware and software compatibility. Your virtualization software, virtual servers, and host server must have hardware compatible with the software you intend to virtualize;
  • Make sure you have enough resources to fulfill your goal. Virtualization increases the hardware requirements for your solution. You must have enough processing power, storage, and RAM for your virtual machines, software, and virtualization overhead;
  • Know when not to virtualize. Part of making sure your company’s virtualization initiative succeeds is knowing what to virtualize and what not. Applications that use large amounts of available resources from a single server, for example, might not be good candidates for this technology;
  • Understand why you want to virtualize your systems. The benefits of virtualization are numerous, and understanding which ones are best for your environment will ensure you choose the best software, hardware, and which systems to deploy with this technology.
cloud computing

Selection of Virtualization Software

Traditionally, a server carried a workload. However, with increasing compute capacity and server virtualization, multiple workloads per physical server are common in cloud architectures.

Cloud economics, including server cost, resiliency, scalability and product lifetime, along with improvements in cloud security, are driving the migration of workloads between servers, both within the data center and between data centers (same data centers in different geographic areas).

With that in mind, it’s important to note that the modern hypervisor and cloud ecosystem have come a long way. VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and others are leading the way with enterprise-ready technologies that can consolidate an infrastructure and help it grow seamlessly with other tools.

Today, many systems are designed for virtualization and cloud readiness. In fact, best practices were written around virtualizing heavy workloads like SQL, Oracle, Exchange, and so on. Taking advantage of these cloud-ready platforms will make your data center more agile and able to meet market demands.

Regular Monitoring and Testing

For any cloud and virtualization ecosystem that supports critical applications, testing and maintenance will be very important. More monitoring and management is needed in the virtualized world than in the past.

Most of the enhancements to virtualization today are in the management space. Here are several reasons why there is an even greater need for monitoring in a virtualized world:

  • Virtualization involves sharing hardware resources between virtual machines. As resources are now shared, a failed VM can end up having an unfair share of a physical server’s resources, thus impacting the performance of other VMs. Such situations must be detected and corrected;
  • Virtualization increases the number of elements to be monitored! If you had ten physical machines and you moved them to two physical servers, you would still have ten VMs and their applications to monitor. Also, you now have two additional servers to manage;
  • Yes, virtualization offers hybrid capabilities and real-time migration. But if that doesn’t work for some reason—for example, because the common datastore they’re using is having problems—you would need to be alerted to these failures. Therefore, you need monitoring software to track these key operations on the virtualized infrastructure;
  • With virtualization, you can easily change settings for any VM. Now, if someone inadvertently changes the CPU or memory setting for a VM, it can adversely impact the performance of that VM and your applications. You will need monitoring software to detect and report these changes and also to inform you of the resulting performance issue with the VM and applications running on it.

By understanding what constitutes an efficient virtual system or the solid deployment of virtual applications—while enforcing industry-standard policies—IT organizations can reduce the risk of having undervalued virtual machines that do more harm than good.