What to look for in virtualization?

Date April 7, 2009

If you're not using virtualization yet, you probably have no idea where to even start looking. You hear about platforms, you're inundated by ads and news coverage and it's everywhere, even though it's ephemeral. No one seems to be answering basic questions, everyone assumes that you've got a virtualization infrastructure or you're getting one, and they're all saying theirs is the best.

So what do you do?

Andrew Clifford has been working hard to educate people on virtualization. Near the end of April, he produced a Virtualization Primer (part 1) to help give people a handle on the subject. He followed that up a week later with Part 2. Yesterday he put together a list of the most frequently seen virtualization platforms.

These posts serve as an excellent introduction to virtualization. You don't have to be a large enterprise entity to take advantage of it, and plenty of free solutions are available for everyone, regardless of platform.

If you're curious about what else you virtualization can help with, Philip Sellers wrote a guest blog entry awhile back about how virtualization helped him patch software, and there have been a couple other posts which mentioned it, too.

If you've got a take on virtualization, or a question, post it below and I (or more likely some other reader) can probably help you out.

  • Bill

    I first saw virtualization in action at an SMB conference last March. HP was presenting and said it was going to be the next big thing in small-medium sized businesses. At the time, I was extraordinarily skeptical.

    Now a year later, and having spent time with Xen and VMWare, I'm convinced that this is changing our field. There's a misconception that virtualization is complicated and difficult to administer, but it's really not. The tools that Xen and VMWare (not sure on MS Hyper-V yet) make it extremely easy to install and administer.

    My only concern is "over" virtualization. When I came on to my current job, I had 8 physical servers and 16 virtual servers to administer. That's in addition to 30 users, email, etc etc. So now instead of having to worry about maintenance, updates, and security for 8 servers, I had 16 to worry about.

    I get frustrated when anyone asks an infrastructure question nowadays, the answer is always "virtualize everything" rather than taking into account all the 2nd and 3rd order effects. Sorry for the rambling, it's been pent up for a while lol.

  • JeffHengesbach

    I picked up a tweet from Scott Lowe (Good guy to follow in the Virtualization world) that linked to an article with some interesting MS internal note excerpts about Hyper-V and scalability.

    @Bill: Without knowing your business you seem to have a lot of servers if indeed there are just 30(ish) users. It's a well known 'issue' that virutualization can be an enabler for rapid server instance sprawl. I would not point a finger at virtualization as the root issue, however I would look into the business process for provisioning servers and educating decision makers about the real costs of operating server(instances).

  • Kamil Kisiel

    I think virtualization can be highly effective at partitioning out system services and giving servers distinct application roles. While "server sprawl" is a real concern, I think that if you add to your virtualization infrastructure with a good configuration management tool like Bcfg2, Puppet, or CFEngine it makes it far easier to manage your servers. We can typically set up a new virtual machine on our network within 30 minutes, fully configured including Kerberos because the configuration tools can literally stamp the system in to place. If we need to make any configuration changes in the future all it takes is modifying one file on the config server and it is propagated to the entire network within an hour.

  • Chris Wilson

    I've been using virtualization technologies for many years now. It has and will continue to change the way IT infrastructures are created and managed.
    Although not a new idea, the latest batch of 'hypervisors' are much easier to deal with than the older forms of virtualization. With Microsoft now really getting stuck in, the familiar MS interface will allow the technology to penetrate even the most cautious of corporate worlds.

    A point often missed with the rise of virtualization are the hardware changes being pushed along with it. The sudden requirement for low-end SAN technologies and cheaper high-bandwidth communications solutions is pushing the tech companies to come up with innovative new ideas.

    Its all good stuff, long may it continue!