The Importance of Virtualization Lifecycle Management for Enterprises
By David M. Lynch, VP of Marketing, Embotics
Virtualization Lifecycle Management
While, virtual machines and server consolidation provides impressive
and immediate ROI, it does not come without its
challenges. According to Gartner, virtual machine (VM) "sprawl" is
the number one concern when it comes to managing VM
environments. This article looks at VM sprawl concerns and
the role that effective Virtualization Lifecycle Management (VLM) plays
in preventing it from occurring in IT environments.
Most virtual servers begin by viewing a virtual machine as similar
to a physical one, but without the hardware cost. At the
beginning of a virtualized deployment, virtual servers view a virtual
machine the same as a physical one. It quickly becomes
clear that there are a number of significant differences between the
two, making it easier to experience sprawl in the virtual world than in
the physical one.
Mobility - Physical
machines rarely move but virtual machines move a great deal. VMs
also tend to change state (e.g. powered on or off) more than their
physical counterparts – another aspect of mobility.
Volume - A fully configured virtual server can be created in minutes, meaning many are easily generated.
Identity - A physical
server has a specific identity tied to its physicality that is usually
attributed to the actual hardware. A VM on the other hand is a
great deal more ethereal.
Lifecycle velocity - VMs
are created for many different reasons and life spans can be different
lengths. The speed at which a VM moves through all the stages of
its lifecycle can range from minutes to years, while physical servers
are more predictable.
These differences create problems for traditional datacenter
management tools that tend to be built for the “physical
world.” VMs are miscounted and this lack of visibility is
contributed to sprawl.
Sprawl is not defined by the number of virtual machines. The
definition of sprawl, “the proliferation of virtual machines
without adequate IT control,” has more to do with control than
numbers. If growth is not controlled then the organization is in
danger of sprawl.
The combination of poor visibility, manual administration, lack of
deployment process and the comparatively large volume of VMs all work
together to make virtual sprawl more likely than server sprawl, and in
some cases almost inevitable. In no time, hundreds or thousands
of virtual machines are running on the network, consuming memory, disk
space and CPU cycles, half of which are lost track of or stand unknown
why they were created in the first place.
This is especially true where multiple groups are creating VMs without centralized control.
Server and virtual sprawl are equally as expensive. As with
server sprawl, the costs with virtual sprawl start with wasted physical
resources, including direct resources like systems, disk and memory, as
well as indirect resources like power, air conditioning and rack space.
Add to this the direct cost of wasted software resources, including
application(s), virtualization platform and operating system licensing,
as well as the cost of any management agents that are deployed inside
the VM. Sprawl also creates increased administration costs due to
the need to manually manage the environment.
Having a larger environment than is necessary also creates increased
risk for an organization. Growing VM environments without
adequate control provides a greater potential for unauthorized or
“rogue” VMs to creep into an environment unnoticed, or for
unsupported OS's and applications to proliferate resulting in the
potential for network, configuration, interoperability, performance,
capacity or service-level conflicts. With a wider variety of
virtual machines in the environment when there is a need to re-create a
virtual machine, there is a greater likelihood of creating one that
does not comply with corporate standards or regulations.
Virtualization Lifecycle Management is about the management and
control of virtual machines throughout their lifecycle –which
done correctly, adjusts for the uniqueness of the virtual server and
ensures maintained control.
In order to be effective, you must manage and control VMs through all 3 stages of life:
1) How (and where) they are “born”
Managing who can deploy virtual machines, and where they are
allowed to be deployed allows for maintained control of the
2) Identity and mobility while they are in the environment, (active or otherwise)
Allows a great deal of flexibility when it comes to control and policy enforcement
Enforces mobility policy on a VM by VM basis; ensuring only specific VMs can run within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Provides information about VMs in the off-line state, allowing an administrator to make a decision about its fate
3) How (and when) they “die”
Removes unused VMs, freeing up resources (hardware, software and
admin), and removing unnecessary clutter from the overall view of the
environment, making the management easier
Sets an expiry date when a VM is created and then uses this date to shut it down or question its continuing viability
There are a variety of new players entering the Virtualization
Lifecycle Management marketplace with a range of products
available. Some use drivers or agents - which is not recommended
given the necessary operational overhead and current maturity level of
the technology - while others are non-intrusive. Complete
visibility including discovery and identity of virtual machines, along
with the ability to manage and control them throughout their lifecycle
is an essential prerequisite before it enters a production
environment. Most management tools provided by virtualization
vendors are aimed mostly at simplified provisioning or deployment of
virtual machines, and while they tend to do this well, they do not
provide effective Lifecycle Management.
By implementing Virtualization Lifecycle Management (VLM) early,
control is upheld and sprawl never becomes a worry. Given the
dynamic nature of the virtual world, it is far easier to maintain
control, than to regain control.
About the Author
A well rounded 30 year veteran of the high tech marketplace with extensive P&L and international expertise in service, hardware and software products, David started his management career at Digital Equipment of Canada where he held numerous executive roles and won every award they offered. Prior to Embotics, David was VP Marketing for Apani Networks where he was responsible for their successful initial product launch, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Rainbow Technologies, where he rebuilt the marketing organization and increased sales, leading to its acquisition by SafeNet, Managing Director for Kyberpass Corporation and President at Cablecom International. David holds degrees in Nautical Science, Computer Technology and an MBA in strategic marketing.