www.comptia.org/communitieswww.comptia.org/communitiesQ U I C K S TA R T G U I D Ewww.comptia.org/ukP O W E R E D B Y :VirtualisationA Practical Guide for Solution Providers
www.comptia.org/communities2 www.comptia.org/researchVirtualisationA Practical Guide forSolution ProvidersSince the early days of computing, there has been a push to utilise compute resourcesas efficiently as possible. In the 1960s, IBM developed Virtualisation technology as away to break a single physical mainframe computer into several logical partitions. Eachpartition could host a separate application, allowing the mainframe to multitask. To enablethis partitioning, IBM designed the mainframe with Virtualisation in mind, optimisingthe hardware to run a Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) that controlled the partitions(also known as virtual machines). This VMM was originally termed a supervisor, but as itextended to control multiple machines, it became known as a hypervisor.In the 1980s and 1990s, the client-server modelalong with lower prices for hardware with greatercapabilities caused Virtualisation to became a lowerpriority. Customers could buy multiple inexpensive x86machines to replace mainframes, and x86 hardwareand the Windows operating system were optimisedto run single applications. Eventually, cost pressuresdrove new demand to virtualise x86 systems aswell. Virtualisation gained a new life when VMWareintroduced a hypervisor that could run on x86architecture.Virtualisation has become a critical component ofmany corporate IT strategies and is a foundationaltechnology in cloud computing. However, CompTIAresearch finds that although firms are moving rapidlyinto the cloud, there is less adoption and familiaritywith Virtualisation. Understanding this underlyingelement of the cloud will help these firms betterunderstand how to address issues such as coststructure and security.How Virtualisation WorksThe primary function of Virtualisation is to allocateresources intelligently for optimal use. This is donemainly through two pieces of hardware: the hypervisorand the management software. In a single-applicationenvironment, the operating system is installed directly onthe hardware, and subsequent applications are installedin the operating system. Operating systems derive theirSource: IDC 2010 Server Virtualisation Module2011 2012 2013 2014200 2012 2012 2013Growing Virtualisation NeedsPhysical Server Shipments(in millions)Virtual Machines(as a share of total server market)7.719%20%22%23%8.28.69As physical machine ship-ments are growing, virtualmachines are growing evenmore rapidly and becominga larger part of the overallserver market.
P O W E R E D B Y :3quick start guidevirtualisationpower from the fact that they have intricate knowledge of thehardware, using a kernel that directly communicates with theprocessor, memory, and other devices. The hypervisor performsthe same function, but instead of applications being installedon the hypervisor, complete operating systems are installed. Ahypervisor directly accesses the hardware of the host system,and then presents subsets of those resources to each operatingsystem that is installed, creating virtual machines that arecompletely self-contained.While the hypervisor is the enabler of Virtualisation,the management software is the differentiator amongVirtualisation vendors. As Virtualisation implementationsbecome more and more complex, the need to managebecomes more critical. Management software providesthe ability to monitor virtual machines and ensure they areoperating properly. It also allows system administrators tooptimise the resources that are being allocated among allvirtual machines.Server Virtualisation is the most common application of thetechnology, but storage and networks have also becomecandidates for Virtualisation. Network-Attached Storage (NAS)and Storage Area Networks (SANs) provide abstracted storageoptions for virtual machines to access. SANs are more expensiveimplementations and are typically used by large enterprises.Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) can group devices on anetwork logically rather than physically, giving administratorsthe ability to resegment networks without physically rearrangingdevices or connections. These advances are leading to thenotion of a fully virtualised data centre, and as all threeVirtualisation techniques are employed, the managementsoftware becomes increasingly important.Benefits of VirtualisationMost Virtualisation projects begin as an effort to consolidateresources, gaining back efficiencies that were lost as serverswere underutilised by the applications running on them. Asresources are consolidated, the number of physical servers orstorage devices needed to maintain operations decreases. Thisin turn reduces the energy demands of the resource pool.There are some benefits to be realised in managing thephysical infrastructure in a virtual environment. New machinerequests no longer require approval of a complete systemand integration into a data centre. Instead, a machine thatis acting as a host may simply need additional memory toaccommodate new requests.In addition to the data centre changes, the structure of an ITdepartment will change. Management of a virtual environment isless labour-intensive, though the work itself is of a different nature.Installation and maintenance are much simpler and happen muchfaster in a virtual environment, and applications can more easily bemoved between virtual machines. Those personnel who previouslysupported physical servers can be allocated to other IT work thatadvances the objectives of an organisation.• Nationwide Insurance reduced its number of physicalservers from 5000 to 3500 and increased utilisation ratesfrom 10% to 65%. This reduced hardware and operatingsystem support costs 20%-50%.• St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan was able to achieve a50% reduction in servers. In addition, the hospital foundthat Virtualisation could be used to establish development,test, and production environments without the cost ofthree separate infrastructures.• The Berryessa Union School District in Californiaconsolidated 32 conventional servers to four blade servers.Desktop resources doubled from 700 to 1400 availablesystems, and fix time improved from weeks to minutes asonsite visits were replaced by virtual machine repair.Examples of Virtualisation SavingsNote: the diagram shows a form of server Virtualisation known as bare-metalVirtualisation. Diagrams showing hosted Virtualisation and OS Virtualisationcan be found in the appendix.Virtual Machine Virtual MachineApp AppOS OSHypervisorHardwareAppHardwareApp AppOSAppApp App AppVirtual MachineOSApp App AppNon-virtualised serverVirtualised server
www.comptia.org/communities4 www.comptia.org/researchThe changes in the IT department do not end with virtualmachine management, though. Virtualisation opens thedoor for more robust features and increased flexibility.Backup and disaster recovery are implemented differently,but more simply, than in a physical environment.The ability to quickly move applications or bring upnew machines brings a new level of agility. Adding inintelligence for resource utilisation and dynamic allocationof those resources is what can then turn Virtualisation intoa cloud solution.As organisations move more of their operations into thecloud and also grapple with the implications of mobiledevice use within the corporation, Virtualisation continuesto evolve. For example, IT administrators are examiningnew uses for virtual desktops, in which employees usetheir desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to accessto a virtual machine running on a server. Many coreapplications and data are accessed through this virtualdesktop, giving the IT department more of an ability tocontrol access to corporate systems.Issues With VirtualisationThe change to IT operations can be a benefit, but it isalso an area of concern. Decoupling applications fromphysical machines leads to greater efficiencies, but it alsorequires a new knowledge of Virtualisation techniquesand a new mindset towards compute resources. There willbe a learning curve for IT administrators coming from atraditional environment, and there will also be educationneeded for end users.There is also a learning curve involved in understandingthe best use of Virtualisation. There are performanceconsiderations in consolidating resources. Workloadshave to be analysed, and certain applications—such asSQL databases and Voice over IP (VoIP)—should becarefully examined to determine if they are Virtualisationcandidates. Administrators will need to ensure that peakdemands can be met as applications are sharing theresource pool and that applications do not suffer frombeing virtualised.In restructuring an IT department to handle virtualmachines, the policies will also have to be addressed.Virtual machines are simpler to bring up than physicalmachines, but this can lead to a proliferation of machinesthat is hard to manage. Some companies store images forstarting up virtual machines to save the time involved inconfiguring the machine for specific applications. Theseimages also must be tracked and maintained.Security is one of the most important policies to address.The hypervisor adds a layer of software to the operationalstack, which in turn adds vulnerabilities. There must bea plan for the security of each machine—including thehost machine and all virtual machines. Communicationsbetween machines also must be monitored, and in thecase of virtual machines on a single host talking toeach other, this communication does not have externalcomponents that can be monitored. Existing securitypolicies will need to be modified to handle these issues,and additional tools may be required to secure the virtualinfrastructure.Compliance must also be monitored in a virtualenvironment. A single host may have a virtual machinewith PCI information and other virtual machines withoutthat information. This is allowed by the regulations, butadditional care is needed to ensure that data does notcross the virtual machine boundaries.Finally, a new focus on Virtualisation techniquesshould not come at the cost of managing the physicalinfrastructure. There are benefits to consolidation, butit also means that host machines become more criticalas they support multiple applications. It is worthwhile torevisit policy related to monitoring physical resources andensuring redundancy.These issues are not insurmountable. There are a widevariety of vendors and service providers who can assistwith these areas. However, dealing with these issues addsto the cost of Virtualisation. It may be simple to calculatehow many physical servers can be removed by virtualisingor how much energy is saved, but the additional costs oftraining and policy changes must be taken into account.For this reason, calculating ROI on Virtualisation is nota trivial matter. In a general sense, the economics ofVirtualisation are a net benefit to companies. But it is upto individual firms to assess their Virtualisation strategyand lay out the proper investment plan.
P O W E R E D B Y :5quick start guidevirtualisationGetting Started With VirtualisationFor those companies who have not yet virtualised theircompute resource, Virtualisation may still be a good stepto take prior to considering cloud solutions. This will givesome experience with virtual environments that may provebeneficial when dealing with cloud issues. As with all ITprojects, a thorough plan is the best path for success.1. Understand your workloads. Server consolidation will onlybe effective if there are a sufficient number of underutilisedservers running similar workloads. Administrators canstart by monitoring performance loads to understand thepeak demand for resources. Next, applications shouldbe examined. Applications that require very low latencyare still in the early stages of being virtualised and maynot be ideal candidates. There is no exact formula fordetermining how to virtualise, but best practices canguide administrators who are examining their data centre.Whether the Virtualisation initiative is being driven fromwithin the IT department or from the executive level,this initial step is critical in assessing the feasibility ofVirtualisation.2. Build the business case. This may be less critical if thepush for Virtualisation is coming from executives, butIT administrators hoping to convince management toinvest will need to have a thorough analysis. All costsshould be carefully considered, from hardware andsoftware to training and time. Less tangible items such asorganisational flexibility should be included in the list ofbenefits.3. Train the staff. Once the plan is approved, IT staff willneed to begin building their knowledge and skills. Manyvendors offer training modules, and there are also a widerange of consultative resources to consider. Certificationin Virtualisation can ensure that staff members are up tospeed on the most recent trends and best practices.4. Examine IT policies and plans. Policies surroundingsecurity and compliance will have to be modified for avirtual environment. Even policies related to the physicalmachines will have to be addressed, since there is nowa greater dependence on a host running several virtualmachines. In addition, plans such as disaster recovery andbusiness continuity will now take advantage of the virtualinfrastructure. This is a good time to involve other lines ofbusiness in the Virtualisation planning.5. Start small. Attempting to virtualise as much infrastructureas possible in the first iteration is likely to lead to mistakesand higher costs. Virtualisation can be approached instages, which will give time for any issues to be resolved,support structures to be put in place, and familiarity withmanagement tools to be built. Small implementations ofless critical applications provide learning opportunities forlarger implementations in the future.6. Monitor and adjust as needed. Virtualisation is not aproject with a defined end date. Instead, it is a new way ofoperating IT, and as such it will be constantly adjusted aswith any business process. In addition to becoming moreadept at the technical aspects of Virtualisation, the ITdepartment can continue to learn more about the variouslines of business and how they use IT. This will give insightas to how to optimise the virtual environment.Though not every customer has sufficient computer resourcesto benefit from a Virtualisation transition, knowing moreabout the technology, the benefits, and the drawbacks willhelp customers make educated decisions. As Virtualisationcontinues to extend beyond servers into other functions,solution providers and end users both will continue to findinnovative ways of operating in a virtual environment.Taking Virtualisation Knowledge Into the Cloud• Those IT departments who maintain responsibility for servermaintenance can eventually move towards a private cloudenvironment as automated resource management and self-service provisioning are added to the virtualised solution.• Public cloud users can ask their cloud providers aboutthe details of the virtual environment. Issues such assecurity and restoration of service will depend on theVirtualisation implementation, and users of Infrastructureas a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) willbe provisioning and working on virtual machines.
www.comptia.org/communities6 www.comptia.org/researchAppendixVirtual Machine Virtual MachineA virtualisation layer allows virtual machines, possibly with different operating systems,to be created within the live operating system running on the host machine.App AppOS1 OS2Virtualisation LayerOSHardwareApp AppApp App AppApp AppHosted VirtualisationContainer ContainerThe OS virtualisation layer creates separate containers,all running the same operating system. These environmentsrun on the same base OS and hardware, but allow for individual processes and usersApp AppOS1 OS2OS Virtualisation LayerOSHardwareApp AppApp App AppApp AppOS Virtualisation
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