7 tips for succeeding with virtualization

Experts share best practices for optimizing strategic virtualization initiatives

To do that, an organization's virtualization advocates should champion the technology by initiating discussions among various IT groups and approaching vendors with a broad set of requirements that address short- and long-term goals. Vendors with technologies in multiple areas, such as servers and desktops, or with partnerships across IT domains could help IT managers better design their virtualization-adoption road maps. More important, however, is preventing virtualization implementations from creating more problems via poor communications or antiquated organizational charts, industry watchers say.

"With ITIL and other best-practice frameworks, IT has become better at reaching out to other groups, but the speed at which things change in a virtual environment could hinder that progress," says Jasmine Noel, a principal analyst at Ptak, Noel and Associates. "IT's job is to evolve with the technology and adjust its best practices, such as change management, to new technologies like virtualization."

2. Identify and inventory virtual resources

Understanding the resources available at any given time in a virtual environment requires enterprise IT managers to enforce strict processes from a virtual machine's birth through death.

Companies need a way to identify virtual machines and other resources throughout their life cycles, says Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Security. The type of virtual-machine tagging he suggests would let IT managers "persistently identify virtual-machine instances over an extended period of time," and help to maintain an up-to-date record of the changes and patches made to the original instance. The process would provide performance and security benefits because IT managers could weed out problematic virtual machines and keep an accurate inventory of approved instances.

"The ability to track virtual machines throughout their life cycles depends on a more persistent identity scheme than is needed in the physical world. IT needs to know which virtual resources it created and which ones seemed to appear over time," Lindstrom explains. "The virtual world is so much more dynamic that IT will need granular identities for virtual machines and [network-access control] policies that trigger when an unknown virtual machine is in the environment. Rogue virtual machines can happen on the client or the hypervisor."

Discovery technology also serves an important role in maintaining an accurate inventory of virtual resources, says Glenn O'Donnell, a Forrester senior analyst. "From a high level, the ITIL processes around managing configuration, change, incidents or problems doesn't change; but virtualization adds another layer of abstraction and numerous configuration items that need to be incorporated into existing processes," he says.

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