At VMworld a couple weeks ago, there were lively and engaging conversations around topics that ranged from hypervisor selection to mobile to hybrid cloud. That said, we wonder how many attendees were able to take full advantage of the show? Why would that be, given virtualization is an assumed core enterprise technology at this point? I think it boils down to a few key areas where the lack of an overall virtualization strategy could be holding enterprises back. Those that were able to get the most of the show likely have their VM and cloud management strategy in tip-top shape around these three key areas:
VM Lifecycle Management Policy
Like when many technologies are first introduced, as IT departments rode the virtualization wave, users rushed to deploy virtual machines based on the promise of physical server consolidation. Virtual machine sprawl was a natural and significant byproduct of this rush. This issue is often ignored until someone starts searching for ways to reclaim host resources like CPU, memory, network and storage. There is a series of questions you should be asking about the VM lifecycle: Why was this VM created? Is it still needed? Can it be deleted? Should it be archived? When should VM expiration or archiving take place? Will the world stop turning?!
An effective lifecycle management strategy needs clear policies on VM provisioning, management and retirement. Further, policies can help enable an end user (a developer, application owner or business manager) to create and retire these VMs themselves. There are also technologies that can help marry these policies to a larger modern data management strategy with automation around VM auto-discovery, P2V conversion and VM archiving. Implementing these policies can quickly free up both resources and time for admins and end users alike. With admins normally reticent about retiring anything, having clear policies in place is essential to maximize resources.
Virtualized application protection processes
As IT departments mature in their use of virtualization, they are bringing increasing numbers of critical applications online. However, they often forget to assess whether their existing data protection platform will be equally effective for those applications as their underlying infrastructure changes – are they able to handle the scale, integration, recovery and flexibility that virtualized applications require?
Traditional backup methods may be fine in many cases, however every application has its own RTO and RPO requirements. Making sure you have the appropriate backup methods to align with the application's needs can dramatically enhance a virtualization strategy to meet even the strictest service level agreements.
Cloud-based disaster recovery
Public cloud is quickly becoming a real option for IT as another class of infrastructure. One place where many organizations are considering leveraging public cloud infrastructure is for business continuance and disaster recovery. That said, many companies still aren’t able to allocate budget to disaster recovery across the existing data center, and are rather siloing that budget only for mission critical applications. Given that the cloud is a strong option for non-critical functions, a situation is developing where a significant volume of data is living without any disaster recovery coverage.
By leveraging the perfect combination of hybrid and public clouds, businesses can not only enhance data availability for critical apps, but also implement broader DR in more efficient and cost effective ways. The public cloud is evolving into the DR platform of choice - so it's wise to plan ahead for any situation by implementing modern data management technologies.
Taking these three strategies into consideration will improve your virtualization performance and set the stage for effective leveraging of cloud computing. Taking a macro view on holistic data protection will enable more secure and efficient VM management, SLAs and cost savings via the public cloud for disaster recovery. These strategies will also help IT align with the overall business strategy and increase the chances of virtualization program success.