Avoid Big Virtualization Headaches: Follow These Management & Monitoring Best Practices

By: Bill Kleyman| - Leave a comment


If you’re reading this – chances are pretty great that you already have at least some level of virtualization in your environment. Numerous leading analyst firms agree that virtualization technologies have certainly hit a point of maturity. Most specifically, server virtualization has helped shape the modern data center and cloud ecosystem as we know it.

Gartner recently showed that the worldwide x86 server virtualization market rose to $5.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 5.7 percent from 2015. Growth is now being driven by maintenance revenue, which indicates a rapidly maturing software market segment.

To elaborate, Michael Warrilow, research director at Gartner, pointed out: “The market has matured rapidly over the last few years, with many organizations having server virtualization rates that exceed 75 percent, illustrating the high level of penetration.”

Moving forward server virtualization will remain the most common infrastructure platform for x86 server OS workloads in on-premises data centers. However, Gartner analysts believe that the impact of new computing styles and approaches will be increasingly significant for this market. This includes OS container-based virtualization and cloud computing.

With all of this in mind – and as you think about your own virtualization deployments – it’s important to discuss and understand good management and monitoring best practices.

Many will argue that with the evolution of virtualization technologies, there is now an easier-to-use framework to deliver core virtualization solutions. However, even with this simplicity, there comes a very real problem. Much like hardware and desktop sprawling, VM-sprawls can have a much greater impact as they’re much easier to deploy. Smaller environments with 5 or 10 VMs won’t have this issue as much. But what about environments with 500 or 1000 VMs? Also, what about desktop virtualization and even app delivery?

Now, the IT manager must deeply analyze the following items several times per day just to make sure both the VMs and physical hosts are healthy:

  • CPU – both virtual and physical
  • Network Utilization
  • Memory – again, both virtual and physical
  • Storage – SAN requirements for VMs are crucial
    • Snapshots, backups, DR, Site-to-site replication, etc.

To overcome these monitoring and management challenges, consider the following when working with virtualization tools:

Before any IT manager goes out and buys third party tools, make sure they get familiar with the intelligent tools already embedded into their respective hypervisor. The top hypervisor manufacturers Citrix, VMWare, and Microsoft already have solid GUIs that must be leveraged by virtualization engineers.

Things like memory utilization across an entire VM pool, storage, NIC and performance metrics are all available to the administrator.

When looking beyond that, administrators should use tools that help them make decisions not only for immediate goals, but for future planning as well.

So when working with virtualization monitoring and management best practices – leverage tools which can give you the following:

  • Metric graphing and long-term monitoring
    • Use tools that help you graph both physical host and VM metrics
    • See when resources are most utilized and plan accordingly
    • By measuring graphs and metrics, IT administrators can make solid decision in upgrading, migrating or managing their environment
  • Capacity/RAM/CPU/Storage Management
    • Proactively monitor, predict, detect, and troubleshoot capacity bottlenecks with real-time dashboards and alerts
    • Determine optimal VM placement, explore what-if scenarios, identify capacity shortfalls, and determine application-specific capacity needs
  • VM Sprawl Control
    • Find idle/stale VMs, orphaned files, and over-allocated VMs
  • Performance Monitoring
    • Proactively monitor virtualization-unique performance problems
    • Deeply analyze storage I/O problems unique to virtual and private cloud deployments
      • VMware View or Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop (for example)
    • Troubleshoot application and workload issues
    • Quickly discover and act on performance issues using flexible alerts and integrated recommendations

Remember, monitoring and management will go hand-in-hand. Usually third party tools will mesh both monitoring and management tools together into one software package.

Ongoing VM environment monitoring will include daily checks of a given infrastructure. Embedded hypervisor tools built into the GUI are designed for this. Administrators are able to see a top-down layout of their physical and virtual machines and be able to establish a baseline for how they are operating at that time.

One of the main goals with ANY monitoring or management tools is to spot and prevent issues. With that, idea here is to be as proactive as possible. All virtualization engineers must learn to be proactive in their environment to help mitigate potential crippling problems and help plan for the future growth of their environment. Learn to spot issues with memory utilization or how VMs behave under certain strains or conditions. The more proactive the approach, the healthier an infrastructure will be.

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About The Author

Bill Kleyman

CTO at MTM Technologies

Bill is an enthusiastic technologist with experience in datacenter design, management, and deployment. His architecture work includes large virtualization and cloud deployments as well as business network design and implementation. Bill enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues around everything that is technology. During the day, Bill is the CTO at MTM Technologies, where he interacts with enterprise organizations and helps align IT strategies with direct business goals. Bill’s whitepapers, articles, video blogs and podcasts have been published and referenced on InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Data Center Knowledge, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and many others. Most recently, Bill was ranked #16 in the Onalytica study which reviewed the top 100 most influential individuals in the cloud landscape, globally.

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