Virtualization Technology News and Information
Managing the virtual realm

Quoting from TechWorld

Managing virtual servers requires IT managers to think outside the box - literally. System administrators trained to check the health and availability of physical servers now must figure out how to distinguish between what's happening at the physical level with what's going on in the virtual realm. Obviously, they must understand the many facets of virtual servers. Then they must couple that with knowledge of how to fine-tune each virtual machine as it resides with others on one hardware box. Simply put, running a virtual server environment calls for a new management mind-set, says John Hinkle, CIO at Trans World Entertainment, a US-based operator of retail music stores, such as Strawberries, Coconuts and FYE.

"Managing virtual servers is not highly complex, but it is quite different from traditional server management. There aren't one or two tricks that work in any situation; you have to learn how to look at a multi-system environment. It's easy to think one or two physical servers are one or two servers, but now in reality they can be so much more," he says.

Hinkle speaks from the experience of having collapsed three data centres into one and, in the process, virtualising four OS/400 partitions, one AIX partition and 10 Windows servers on an IBM iSeries 570 server. His team uses IBM management tools to monitor the overall infrastructure, and software from SolarWinds to monitor the physical and virtual servers' uptime and performance. At times the transition from physical to virtual servers was "a bit bumpy" as the team encountered new management requirements, he says.

For example, the team learned that although management tools can deliver the same types of reports for physical and virtual environments, different actions are needed in response to an alert. In a virtual environment, for instance, systems administrators must dig deeper into an alert - perhaps using more advanced tools - to determine whether it relates to one virtual machine or affects the entire physical box. This ambiguity about the source of a problem could lead to alerts not being taken seriously enough, or could result in lengthy repairs causing server downtime, Hinkle says.

"On a traditional, stand-alone box, the server has a disk array. In a virtual environment, the disk is all shared, so the problem may not be on your virtual machine," he says. "You need to determine what is going on across the environment and the shared resources and pinpoint where the problem is," he says.

In a virtual server environment, a system administrator has to think of all the applications and processes that depend on the virtualised resources residing on the physical box, he adds. "In a virtualised environment, there are things, such as reboot and apply patches, you just can't do in the middle of a production day, because you are altering the underlying system that all the virtual machines touch," Hinkle says. "You have to think differently, and [that has been] our biggest challenge. It would be easy to work like you always did and not take advantage of the new infrastructure."

Indeed, says Charles King, principal analyst at research firm Pund-IT, "virtualisation requires IT operations staff to have a certain level of sophistication. And it requires technical savvy for managing the systems, especially in a large, cross-platform enterprise environment."

Read the rest of the article, here.

Published Tuesday, August 29, 2006 10:10 AM by David Marshall
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