E-Guide: Best Practices for Managing Virtual Environments

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"Although virtualization can help ease some of the physical issues of managing data centers by allowing less hardware to handle more workloads, it can also introduce new challenges. To overcome these …

"Although virtualization can help ease some of the physical issues of managing data centers by allowing less hardware to handle more workloads, it can also introduce new challenges. To overcome these issues brought about by virtualization IT pros need to understand capacity planning fundamentals. In this e-guide from SearchServerVirtualization.com, gain expert advice on how to handle data center growth with capacity planning and resource provisioning. Learn how performance management and capacity planning go hand-in-hand and find out how to interpret capacity management metrics to reduce costs and simplify management.
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  • 1. E-GuideBest practices for managing virtualenvironmentsAlthough virtualization can help ease some of the physical issues ofmanaging data centers by allowing less hardware to handle moreworkloads, it can also introduce new challenges. To overcome theseissues brought about by virtualization IT pros need to understandcapacity planning fundamentals. In this e-guide fromSearchServerVirtualization.com, gain expert advice on how to handledata center growth with capacity planning and resource provisioning.Learn how performance management and capacity planning go hand-in-hand and find out how to interpret capacity management metrics toreduce costs and simplify management. Sponsored By:
  • 2. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environments E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environments Table of Contents Overcoming virtualization challenges: Capacity planning, provisioning Inside the capacity management process: Resource supply and demand Resources from Dell and VMwareSponsored By: Page 2 of 9
  • 3. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsOvercoming virtualization challenges: Capacityplanning, provisioningBy Stephen J. Bigelow, Senior Technology Editor, SearchServerVirtualization.comTechnologies like virtualization have eased some of the physical issues of managing datacenters, allowing less hardware to handle more workloads. But this added utilization andflexibility can bring a few virtualization challenges. The abstraction of virtualization hascomplicated data center management, requiring more technical and procedural regulation tokeep the environment from spiraling out of control.What causes virtualization challengesVirtualization challenges occur because virtualizing an infrastructure makes it harder tolocate problems. In traditional non-virtualized environments, tracing a failed application to afaulty server or subsystem was a relatively simple matter. Virtualization places numerousworkloads on the same server and can migrate virtual machines (VMs) between physicalhost servers almost on demand.Consequently, tasks like tracking and identifying VMs on physical hosts or sorting out thesource of I/O bottlenecks requires far more investigative work on the part of administrators.Additional virtualization challenges may come about because virtualization might notsupport some hardware devices such as USB flash drives.Having the capability to migrate VMs between physical servers has emerged as animportant troubleshooting tool. It allows administrators to balance workloads and moveimpaired VMs between servers while preserving each applications availability.Another common source of virtualization challenges is application compatibility with thevirtualization platform. Applications that are not fully compatible with a virtual environmentmay perform poorly or not at all. Thorough testing in a lab environment can revealapplication issues and prevent them from affecting production workloads.Sponsored By: Page 3 of 9
  • 4. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsCapacity planningAlmost all IT environments experience the demands of growth over time, and capacityplanning is required to handle that growth. Expansions often take the form of additionalusers -- either internal or external -- utilizing more applications, which, in turn, requiregreater computing resources such as more powerful servers and faster storage. Whendemands exceed capacity, youll run into more virtualization challenges. Applications maybecome unstable or unavailable, and this can have profound consequences in terms ofbusiness revenue and reputation.Capacity planning tracks resource utilization trends and couples that data with a knowledgeof business plans to predict future resource requirements. The business can then plan,budget, purchase and deploy new resources to meet those future demands.Over-provisioning can complicate capacity planning because more resources are assignedthan are physically available. This requires an administrator to allocate more physicalresources long before the logical resource is filled.For example, its possible to create a 500 MB LUN even though there may only be 100 MB ofphysical storage assigned to it initially. The administrator then must add more physicalcapacity to the logical 500 MB LUN as that initial 100 MB fills.Similar problems can also occur with the memory over-commit features of virtualizationplatforms.Resource provisioning and over-commitmentMore virtualization challenges can occur when it comes to resource provisioning.Provisioning is the process of allocating computing resources to a workload. Resourceprovisioning may include tasks like carving a LUN out of storage or assigning server CPUsand memory to VMs.The basic goals of resource provisioning and configuring in a virtual system are essentiallyidentical to a non-virtualized system. But virtualization carries a distinct risk of over-Sponsored By: Page 4 of 9
  • 5. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsallocation -- assigning more resources than the system can actually provide -- because ofthe multiple workloads that a virtual system will handle.The idea of over-committing computing resources is certainly not new. For example, thinprovisioning is a standard practice in storage environments. But over-allocating resourceson a virtual server carries two potential penalties.First, assigning too many resources to an application that doesnt really need them willwaste resources and reduce the total number of workloads that the system can handle.Second, over-committing resources may create a situation where the servers performanceand stability are compromised, and this threatens all of the workloads on that particularphysical host.Provisioning a virtual system properly requires a keen awareness of each application and itscomputing needs. Tools like live migration can help ease resource provisioning and othervirtualization challenges by allowing administrators to move workloads to balancecomputing resource demands.Sponsored By: Page 5 of 9
  • 6. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsInside the capacity management process: Resourcesupply and demandBy Greg Shields, Contributor, SearchServerVirtualization.comIn a virtual infrastructure, having a strong capacity management process in place is criticalto maintaining solid server resource allocation.When you begin using virtualization capacity planning charts the course for resourcebalancing. Capacity management is the continual process of maintaining optimal virtualmachine (VM) capacity.Many IT professionals also associate the capacity management process with performancemanagement, which makes sense. The goal of performance management is to identify partsof an infrastructure where performance isn’t up to snuff and to tweak resource levels tokeep VMs operating at peak levels.Although the capacity management process uses the same metrics as those used forperformance management process, capacity management has a different objective from thegoal of performance management. If performance management is about the behavior oftoday, you might say capacity management is about the behavior of tomorrow.The economics of the capacity management processOne of the easiest ways to explain capacity management is by invoking a bit of high school(or college) economics. The capacity management process begins with a concept you’reprobably familiar with: supply and demand.In economics, supply and demand refers to how much of a product is available and howmuch of the product is sought by consumers. The same forces are at work in a virtualinfrastructure -- only in this case, the product is physical resources, and the consumers arevirtual machines.Sponsored By: Page 6 of 9
  • 7. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsMost administrators want to squeeze as many VMs as possible onto as few physical hosts aspossible while also ensuring that every VM has an acceptable level of performance. Butreaching optimal server consolidation requires a strong capacity management process, andthat’s a constant push-and-pull routine: balancing the supply of available physical resourceswith the demand pressure exerted by running VMs.What you may not realize is that you can actually gather supply-and-demand metrics fromyour virtual platform’s management console. Inside the VMware vSphere Client, forexample, look at the Virtual Machines tab after highlighting a virtual host. It features a listof VMs with information on their resource utilization.Interpreting capacity management metricsThose capacity management metrics help determine resource balance (or imbalance). Notethat the numbers are integers, or whole numbers, rather than percentages. Capacitymanagement in a virtual infrastructure can be difficult to grasp because traditionally, mostadmins have viewed metrics as percentages instead of whole numbers. During the days ofphysical servers those percentages might have served us well, but whole numbers are moreuseful for a virtual capacity management process.So what’s the meaning of these whole numbers? They indicate the supply of host resources,and it takes a simple calculation to determine the demand. Once you know where to findthese numbers and how to interpret them, the capacity management process gets easier.Let’s take processing CPU, for example. In the Virtual Machines tab, a column labeled HostCPU-MHz shows the quantity of Mhz each virtual machine currently demands. For each VM,the amount obviously varies depending on how great a VM’s processing needs are. You canadd the MHz demands for each VM on a host to determine how many MHz (or, probablyGHz) the total collection of VMs needs. Now you have your demand metrics.To determine the supply number, check the Summary tab for the host. There, theResources box has a bar graph marked CPU Usage. Next to the bar graph is a measurementcalled Capacity, which is the number of CPUs in the host, multiplied by each processor’s GHzcontribution -- or the supply of processing resources a host contributes. If a host has fourSponsored By: Page 7 of 9
  • 8. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsprocessors that contribute 2.26 GHz each, for instance, your server supplies 9.04 GHz ofprocessing.You now know the value of a VM’s host supplies and processing demand. By subtractingdemand from supply, you can determine how much capacity remains available on a physicalhost. Voiìa!This capacity management process is simpler and far less costly than many solutions thatcalculate the metrics for you. Other factors can affect capacity, including the change rate ofthese values and host processing reserve, but this simple math provides a quick andaccurate capacity measurement.For a complete capacity management process, repeat the calculation for networking,storage and memory resources.Sponsored By: Page 8 of 9
  • 9. SearchServerVirtualization.com E-Guide Best practices for managing virtual environmentsResources from Dell and VMwareThe True Cost of Virtual Server SolutionsDell and VMware SMB Solutions BriefSave Money and Protect Your Business Assets with VMware vSphere™About Dell and VMwareAbout Dell, Inc. Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) listens to customers and delivers innovativetechnology and services they trust and value. Uniquely enabled by its direct business model,Dell is a leading global systems and services company and No. 34 on the Fortune 500. Formore information, visit www.dell.com, or to communicate directly with Dell via a variety ofonline channels, go to www.dell.com/conversations. To get Dell news direct, visitwww.dell.com/RSS.Sponsored By: Page 9 of 9