Ever since companies started cranking up the VMs, proliferation of VMs across departments has thrown up management challenges. Governing a real physical infrastructure was much easier due to the trusted IT management processes and tools that evolved over several years. With virtualization, existing tools and processes lack in their ability to manage growth of VMs, because of how VMs are put to use. VMs are started, shut down, kept idle, randomly recycled and list goes on. The very first challenge for IT managers is to know how many VM hosts and VMs have been setup and configured across their organization. Who are the owners and users of VMs and how do they put their VMs to use? You will need to have an automated discovery solution to discover and identify VM hosts and VMs across your network. Once discovered, you can embark on the exercise of identifying the true roles and purpose of these VMs.
Server consolidation from multiple hardware boxes is a key benefit of virtualization. You must first get the big picture of all the VM roles and how your earlier physical servers have been regrouped to consolidate all the server roles. You need to able to understand the all the current roles of VMs and how these VMs have been configured for the underlying physical hardware resources.
Once physical hardware resources have been properly planned and configured, VM hosts and VMs are easy to install, configure and get them up and running. There are numerous benefits due to Virtualization and hence user adoption has been strong resulting in increased productivity of teams using and managing their IT infrastructure. However, if IT management teams do not have proper control on the growth of VMs, VMs get scattered, either not used or under-used and without functional control, causing serious VM sprawls. For example, one reason related to VM sprawl is setting up of temporary VMs for a short duration for a specific purpose and then continuing to retain the VM in inactive state without a purpose or role. There may be a number of such VMs that were created without proper planning. Another major challenge to address is that the resources allocated to VMs are usually not revisited once they have been configured and running. The easiest approach has been to add more and more hardware for virtualization or adding more VMs on existing hardware without planning. To manage and control how VMs are created and installed, it requires proper planning and governance policies.
Once you identify the owners of VMs, you can determine the list of VMs that can be truly reclaimed. You can also reuse some of these VMs by properly reconfiguring them and setting them up for a different purpose.
After studying the VM roles, the next step is to dig in and figure out how each VM host has been configured and if the virtual resources are optimally configured for each VM role. The key to understanding this will be the workloads. Workloads are usually guestimates based on physical server experience but after virtualization, the same workloads could cause issues if the VM resources have not been configured properly. You will need to analyze performance of each VM and fine tune resources based on the health of each VM monitored on an hourly / daily / weekly basis. Usually workloads are fairly predictable if monitored on an hourly basis for each day of the week and a study of health reports during these times will indicate if the workloads are managed well by each VM with the current resource configuration.
A complete documentation of the VM environment is a must for any organization, big or small, in order to control and manage VMs better. The documentation serves multiple purposes, such as routine audits for Compliance, for decision making by Management and for day-to-day Administrative functions. A proper documentation of your entire VM infrastructure is absolutely essential if you have to take meaningful actions to efficiently operate your VM environment and manage it with proper planning.