Welcome!

Web 2.0 Authors: Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff, Kevin Benedict, Carmen Gonzalez, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Virtualization

Virtualization: Article

Balancing the Virtualization Equation

Get the most from your virtualized environment

Enterprises committed to a virtualization strategy need to ensure that management and automation of mission-critical IT systems and applications are included in their planning. Enterprises also need to establish procedures that allow them to maximize the benefits of consolidating to a virtualized platform and mitigate potential business risk across a landscape that has become abstract. Failure to do so will impact the success of projects and dilute the value of a virtualization strategy.

Spiraling energy costs, squeezing extra IT power out of fixed data center real estate footprints and environmental concerns, have shifted virtualization from a commodity tool to a center-stage role in the IT strategy of many organizations.

The history of virtualization can be tracked back to the 1970s when mainframe computers could be virtually partitioned to host multiple guest machines. It proved an ideal environment in which to install and configure new operating platforms, upgrade existing systems, and give software developers a sandbox for isolation testing. In its 21st century incarnation, history has repeated itself with virtualization usually starting life deep within the data center of most enterprises. IT operations and application development teams rapidly recognized the extra flexibility they could get from not needing to procure extra hardware to service ad hoc processing demands or for software testing.

With the shift from commodity to a center-stage role for virtualization, there is a corresponding shift in planning required to ensure that all IT layers in an enterprise are fully aligned to perform in a new virtualized landscape. In addition to ensuring that the underlying IT infrastructure components are in place each time a new virtual machine is provisioned, it's imperative that the business applications as well as the operational processes and procedures are fully established to provide the comprehensive set of services that end users rely on to do their jobs.

Factor
From an end-user or functional user perspective, whether an environment is virtualized or not is largely irrelevant. Such users simply expect their applications and programs to work - virtualization for them is a back-office, and therefore mostly unseen, technology. Planning for virtualization should strive to minimize apparent adverse impact on users' day-to-day activities.

Virtualization transforms a data center into a dynamic IT environment that can provide the flexibility and scalability capable of responding to the varying demands driven by a dynamic 24x7 global marketplace. However, while the ability to add and subtract processing capacity without needing to power up extra hardware offers enterprises greater agility, there are accompanying challenges that require addressing.

Factor
An organization's current system monitoring tools are probably very good at monitoring server statistics (like CPU utilization, I/O, etc.) and raising alarms if certain thresholds are exceeded. In a virtualized environment, such alarms should be expected to initiate action that can start, stop, or move virtual machines within the environment to help alleviate the detected resource exception. Planning should consider how system monitors can take actions that modify the virtual environment.

As each new virtual machine is spawned, the IT Operations team is left with the challenge of recognizing that there is an extra machine available that requires managing and monitoring. This same team also assumes responsibility for manually routing workload to this additional resource, continually checking systems performance and being ready to respond to messages and resolve problems as and when they occur.

Factor
A long-running, complex business process is known to contain a large processing "spike" at a certain point. In a virtualized environment, additional virtual machines can be started just prior to the spike (and stopped just after) to provide additional processing horsepower. The orchestrator (personnel or product) of the business process should be expected to be sufficiently aware of the virtualized environment to note the additional virtual machine(s) and take advantage of them. Without that awareness, even with the flexibility to dynamically add horsepower, an important potential benefit of the virtualized environment is lost. Planning should look at how business process orchestrators can take actions that affect the virtual environment.

This increase in workload combined with the perennial lack of qualified, skilled personnel puts tremendous pressure on IT operations. Instead of continually trying to find, train, and retain staff, organizations need to incorporate the tribal operations management knowledge that has accumulated over many years into the fabric of their virtualized environments. Adopting an automated approach would not only reduce operational pressures; it would also mitigate business risk by reducing the exposure of critical systems and applications to unaccountable manual intervention.

Factor
Drilling down into the previous example - if personnel are responsible for orchestrating the business process, one can envision a very detailed and carefully written manual process document for them to follow to manage the spike, taking advantage of the established virtualized environment. The burden (what higher-value activity could a person be doing?) and risk (what if a person makes a mistake?) of such a manual procedure could be eliminated by using an automated orchestrator - but only so far as the orchestrator is aware of and can interact with and control the virtualized environment. Again, without the awareness, an important potential benefit of the virtualized environment is lost. Planning should work to convert or translate manual processes (to the greatest extent possible) into automated processes.

Ensuring that extra virtual machines are brought online to cater for peak processing demands, optimizing the distribution of batch jobs to complete ahead of critical deadlines through to automatically responding and taking corrective actions against errors are just a few examples of workload management challenges arising in a virtualized world that can be simplified using automation. Beyond the infrastructure layer there's an equivalent set of tasks and procedures that have to be done to drive application processing that have traditionally relied on manual interaction, either by data center or end-user personnel. The virtualization of applications generates a similar set of challenges and requires equal attention if enterprises are going to realize benefits throughout their IT landscape.

In virtualized environments, the fixed relationships between hardware, systems, and applications no longer exist. Hardwired, proscribed associations, ranging from a command sequence in an operations handbook to fixed parameters embedded in a piece of application code, can result in different interpretations when presented in a virtualized world. Virtualization introduces an extra layer of abstraction between physical hardware devices and the software systems that an enterprise runs to support its business.

Factor
It's easy for a developer to write a program that runs well on a single server. However, without due consideration of the virtualized environment, it's all too likely that that same program won't run successfully across a landscape of virtual machines or hypervisors. Support for virtualized environments must be built into custom-developed code.

At the IT infrastructure management layer, there are IT housekeeping and administrative tasks that need to be executed: backups, snapshots, database clean-ups, file-transfer handling, and starting and stopping VMs. At the business application layer, there are functional processes and procedures that need to be undertaken: sales data uploads, order processing, invoicing, logistics, production, analytics and forecasting, finance and accounting, HR and customer care. Bringing together the execution of these activities ensures that everything around business and IT processes are properly managed and maintained. The scope of activities required will usually go well beyond the capability of an individual business application or systems management solution. Enterprises need to manage the suite of all interfaces around their virtual environments. They also need to be able to integrate the real and virtual environments in such a way that they can fully leverage the breadth and the depth of functionality that can be derived from their core applications and operating platforms.

Factor
IT housekeeping and administrative applications certainly must be "virtualization-aware" - indeed, some of the IT housekeeping tasks listed above are included in various hypervisors (e.g., snapshots). Business applications such as ERP, CRM, BI and DW must also be aware - it would make no sense to bring another virtual machine online for a particular application if the application itself had no awareness of its virtualized environment. There's some opportunity for application consolidation in terms of the applications used for managing IT housekeeping, administration, and business applications. The distinctions have blurred between certain classes of applications (e.g., job schedulers, system managers, business process managers) to such a degree that one new application may be able to replace the functionality of two or more older applications (see the references to an "orchestrator" in other parts of this article). Planning must include the business applications and each one's unique requirements.

Forming logical associations and utilizing logical views when managing virtualized systems and applications will allow IT departments to achieve greater flexibility and agility. When seeking to automate IT housekeeping procedures through to business processes, such as financial period-end close, creating a centralized single set of policy definitions that have embedded parameter variables not only ensures consistency and transparency across all virtualized machines and hypervisors - it will also reduce maintenance and administration overheads.

Factor
Establishing a single metadata repository for such items as policy definitions, processing rules, and business processes is a positive step in any virtualized environment. If such a repository also holds data about the current state of play of the policies in force, which rules are in control, and processing status then such data can be used in a predictive manner to proactively determine what virtual resources might be needed near-term AND take action to make those resources available. Effort should be spent planning how metadata can be used to allow proactive management of the virtual environment.

Establishing the availability of virtual resources, determining current systems performance, and analysis of other metrics can be used at runtime to optimize the routing and dispatching of workloads. Process definitions can be dynamically configured using parameter overrides to run on the hypervisor server best suited to ensure end-user SLAs are satisfied.

Factor
In the absence of an orchestrator to automate processing, system monitors can detect system events and raise alarms in a reactive fashion. Proactive and reactive attempts to modify the virtual environment are certainly valid. However, doing neither wastes some of the potential advantages of virtualization. Both proactive and reactive adjustments of the virtual environment should be planned for.

Securing and administering all process definitions in a centralized repository will support change control management. There's no need to manually check that script updates, necessary because a new version of a backup utility is being rolled out, have been propagated to all virtual machines. Critical activities that need to be run on virtual machines are protected against unauthorized updates and illegal use. Being able to maintain a record and report on all changes made to process definitions, as well as details of who executed what, where, when, and the outcome, supports enterprises in ensuring that their use of virtualization doesn't introduce additional operational risk and is compliant with IT governance strategy.

Factor
As highlighted earlier, automation provides a highly effective alternative to manual processes. If changes to the virtualized environment are automated (e.g., though predictive use of state data, automated response to alarms, and planned changes in a business process) then one expectation should be the existence of a good solid audit trail of actions taken by the automation orchestrator. Planning for compliance is a must.

Conclusion
Instead of dusting down an old IT operations run book and updating it to support a virtualization strategy, enterprises need to realize that embedding knowledge and experience into automated procedures not only simplifies management and control of a virtualized world; it can also ensure smart decisions are taken at the right time in the right context. An automated approach translates into improved throughput, greater accuracy, fewer errors, and less risk. Putting technology to work by allowing it to analyze resource utilization and respond instantaneously, provisioning extra resource in a virtualized environment enhances productivity and throughput.

More Stories By Alex Givens

Alex Givens is a Senior Solutions Architect for UC4 Software, Inc., makers of UC4 Workload Automation Suite. For 13 years, Alex has helped organizations improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their business processing. Alex has spoken on business process automation at many international, national and regional conferences.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how these devices generate enough data to learn our behaviors and simplify/improve our lives. What if we could connect everything to everything? I'm not only talking about connecting things to things but also systems, cloud services, and people. Add in a little machine learning and artificial intelligence and now we have something interesting...
Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) irreversibly encoded. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, will look at how this identity problem can be solved and discuss ways to use existing web identities for real-time communication.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn real-world benefits of WebRTC and explore future possibilities, as WebRTC and IoT intersect to improve customer service.
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, an Open Source Cloud Communications company that helps the shift from legacy IN/SS7 telco networks to IP-based cloud comms. An early investor in multiple start-ups, he still finds time to code for his companies and contribute to open source projects.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services to the modern P2P RTC era of OTT cloud assisted services.
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehension and conference efficiency.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example to explain some of these concepts including when to use different storage models.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridstore delivers vmOptimized™ Storage that self-optimizes to each application or VM across both virtual and physical environments. Leveraging a grid architecture, Gridstore delivers the first end-to-end storage QoS to ensure the most important App or VM performance is never compromised. The storage grid, that uses Gridstore’s performance optimized nodes or capacity optimized nodes, starts with as few a...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. These technological reforms have not only changed computers and smartphones, but are also changing the data processing model for all information devices. In particular, in the area known as M2M (Machine-To-Machine), there are great expectations that information with a new type of value can be produced using a variety of devices and sensors saving/sharing data via the network and through large-scale cloud-type data processing. This consortium believes that attaching a huge number of devic...
Innodisk is a service-driven provider of industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products and technologies, with a focus on the enterprise, industrial, aerospace, and defense industries. Innodisk is dedicated to serving their customers and business partners. Quality is vitally important when it comes to industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products. That’s why Innodisk manufactures all of their products in their own purpose-built memory production facility. In fact, they designed and built their production center to maximize manufacturing efficiency and guarantee the highest quality of our products.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. Download Slide Deck: ▸ Here
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. Every other IT news item seems to be about IoT and its implications on the future of digital business.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
With the iCloud scandal seemingly in its past, Apple announced new iPhones, updates to iPad and MacBook as well as news on OSX Yosemite. Although consumers will have to wait to get their hands on some of that new stuff, what they can get is the latest release of iOS 8 that Apple made available for most in-market iPhones and iPads. Originally announced at WWDC (Apple’s annual developers conference) in June, iOS 8 seems to spearhead Apple’s newfound focus upon greater integration of their products into everyday tasks, cross-platform mobility and self-monitoring. Before you update your device, here is a look at some of the new features and things you may want to consider from a mobile security perspective.