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Strategies for Conquering Datacenter Management Challenges Caused by Virtualization and Cloud Computing

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Virtualization has become a core datacenter technology supporting production workloads in enterprises around the world. The widespread use of virtualization enables more efficient use of computing …

Virtualization has become a core datacenter technology supporting production workloads in enterprises around the world. The widespread use of virtualization enables more efficient use of computing resources by allowing enterprises to consolidate workloads and dynamically allocate resources as needed, based on business requirements. To fully exploit the potential benefits of virtualization in enterprise datacenters, IT teams need to seamlessly integrate, automate, and standardize infrastructure operations and provisioning activities across server, storage, and network resources.

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  • 1. I D C A N A L Y S T C O N N E C T I O N Mary Johnston Turner Research Director, System Management Software Strategies for Conquering Datacenter Management Challenges Caused by Virtualization and Cloud Computing March 2010 Virtualization has become a core datacenter technology supporting production workloads in enterprises around the world. The widespread use of virtualization enables more efficient use of computing resources by allowing enterprises to consolidate workloads and dynamically allocate resources as needed, based on business requirements. To fully exploit the potential benefits of virtualization in enterprise datacenters, IT teams need to seamlessly integrate, automate, and standardize infrastructure operations and provisioning activities across server, storage, and network resources. Customers need to better understand how the use of virtualization and cloud computing changes datacenter infrastructure management requirements. The following questions were posed by Dell to Mary Johnston Turner, IDC's research director of System Management Software, on behalf of Dell's customers. Q. What type of management challenges are faced by system administrators and IT operations teams when virtualization becomes a dominant datacenter technology? A. IDC's research indicates there are more virtual than physical servers in enterprise datacenters today. By the end of 2012, the typical physical server will support more than eight virtual servers. IT administrators are aiming for 70% or greater physical server resource utilization. More and more production workloads are being virtualized. In fact, 75% of organizations that currently use virtualization have policies in place to make virtual servers the default environment for new deployments. As virtualization becomes more pervasive across production datacenters, the scale and the pace of change facing system administrators escalate rapidly. During the initial conversion to virtualized environments, workloads need to be migrated from physical to virtual servers. However, once virtualized environments are operational, more and more organizations make use of live workload migration capabilities to add and subtract virtual server resources depending on changing business and application performance requirements. More and more organizations are also looking to dynamically move workloads to conserve power and cooling resources and/or to provide failover and business continuity protection. Each time a workload is migrated, myriad network-, storage-, and system-level connections and configurations need to be reset. Each workload has its own requirements in terms of OS, platform, security, and performance. Changes need to be coordinated across multiple IDC 916
  • 2. operational teams and technology environments. The more heterogeneous the datacenter resources, the more cumbersome it can be to streamline these activities. The dynamic, fast-paced rate of change being experienced across dynamic, virtualized datacenters demands new approaches to provisioning, change control, and configuration management. IT organizations need to standardize, automate, and integrate workflows and configurations to fully exploit the benefits of virtualization and to keep up with the rate of change it creates. Q. What is the connection between virtualization and cloud computing, and what management challenges emerge with regard to effective operation of these environments? A. Cloud computing builds on virtualization and takes it several steps further. Fundamentally, cloud architectures enable delivery of business services on demand using automated, policy- based provisioning and service management tools to share computing resources across multiple workloads and users. Cloud is often associated with public, subscription-based software-as-a-service offerings such as salesforce.com or compute on-demand services such as Amazon EC2. However, organizations can implement policy-based automation and standardized service catalogs to dynamically and efficiently share pooled, virtualized IT infrastructure across multiple users and applications in private datacenters as well. Standardization and automation are the keys to transitioning from a virtualized datacenter to a private cloud datacenter. IDC's research shows that only a handful of large enterprises can be described as private cloud environments today. For the most part, we see organizations that are rapidly scaling up their investment in virtualization to more efficiently support an increasing range of production workloads and to reduce power consumption and datacenter congestion. It doesn't take long before these organizations reach a tipping point where the logistics of manually configuring servers, storage, and network connections every time a new workload is deployed or moved begins to get in the way of the business. When it takes five minutes to spin up a virtual server, but then takes several weeks to complete all the associated integrations needed to connect it to the rest of the environment, you know you have a problem. Organizations that aspire to implement cloud computing strategies need to make sure they are efficiently managing their virtualized infrastructure first. Standardizing, integrating, and automating datacenterwide virtualized resource management are important steps on that journey. Q. What role does automation play in addressing these challenges? A. As I have noted above, the scale and the pace of change in highly virtualized environments can quickly overwhelm manual configuration, change, and workload management processes. Given the increased use of virtualization in production IT environments, 77% of IT managers tell IDC that they expect the number of annual configuration changes in their environments to grow at double-digit rates. The majority of this group expects increases on the order of 10–50% annually. In traditional datacenter environments, server, network, and storage experts rely on their own unique sets of tools and processes to support technology-specific provisioning and change management activities. In traditional environments, workloads are tightly coupled with dedicated hardware resources, and configurations and connections change infrequently. 2 ©2010 IDC
  • 3. When changes are needed, the individual technology groups turn to time-consuming change control boards, ad hoc emails, and phone calls to coordinate changes. These types of relatively static processes and technology-specific tools were never designed to accommodate near instant workload migrations and ongoing dynamic resource pooling and system reconfigurations. Yet, that is the goal for highly virtualized datacenters and for organizations contemplating the development of private cloud environments. Automated provisioning and change management workflows that can reach across tightly interdependent technology platforms are critical to the efficient operations of dynamic, virtualized datacenters. They help not only to speed routine reconfigurations and workload migrations but also to reduce human error by ensuring that predefined workload configuration requirements are implemented as required on a consistent basis. Q. What role does standardization have in the successful use of automated infrastructure management? A. Standardization of service definitions, workload configurations, and operational workflows is vital to the successful automation of complex datacenter operations. By definition, automated management tools execute the same set of predefined policies or tasks over and over again. Standardization allows automation to scale beyond department-level tasks and ad hoc routines written by one or two individuals to support their specific needs. Standardization at the organizational rather than departmental level also makes it easier to share resources across larger groups of users and workloads, something that is critical to realizing the full promise of cloud and virtualization. IDC's research shows that the combination of standardization and automation definitely reduces errors and operational costs. The specific impact will vary depending on the organization and the areas addressed. IDC has seen some organizations experience such benefits as improving application availability from 99.5% to 99.9% or saving $100,000 or more by avoiding the need to hire additional staff. Standardizing workload images and configurations and applying those standard images every time a new virtual server needs to be built can cut deployment times from weeks to hours. The goal should be to implement a policy-driven automated change and provisioning management environment that can coordinate and integrate changes to physical and virtual servers and the connected storage and network assets in a consistent, timely manner. To do this, automated management tools need to be able to abstract the workload or service definitions from the hardware that support the workloads. In this type of environment, the appropriate hypervisor, OS, storage, and network environments needed for a specific workload can be quickly deployed on top of bare metal servers to rapidly recover from a server failure, to conserve power, or to accommodate increased business computing requirements. When the resources are no longer needed, the workload can be deactivated and the physical resources can be reassigned to another policy-based image. This type of workload orchestration can be managed centrally across a single datacenter or the entire enterprise. This central view of resource consumption and workload availability not only improves near-term resource utilization and application performance but also enhances capacity planning and troubleshooting analytics. The more an organization is able to standardize the definition and configuration of workloads, the more easily those workloads can be moved and utilization of the supporting computing, storage, and network resources can be optimized. ©2010 IDC 3
  • 4. Q. What types of changes need to be made to IT governance and workflow strategies to fully exploit and effectively manage virtualized datacenters and private clouds? A. We increasingly find that cultural rather than technical barriers get in the way of organizations fully exploiting centralized, policy-based IT infrastructure automation. Many IT professionals resist the effort to standardize operational environments and workload configurations. They feel it is a threat to their group's autonomy and worry that they will lose control over and visibility into the consumption of the resources they are tasked to maintain. We find that organizations that benefit from strong executive support for standardization, resource pooling, and automation are most frequently successful in achieving both their operational and capital expense goals while simultaneously improving workload performance and availability. Unfortunately, to date, our research shows that many organizations continue to manage virtual servers in isolation from physical servers and put off investing in advanced automation and workload optimization tools. The result is costly, inefficient virtual server sprawl, suboptimal resource utilization, and delayed deployments and migrations due to time- consuming manual configuration and change control processes. As IT organizations continue to be asked to do more with the same staff resources, it becomes critical for them to step up to more integration of workflows and automation of provisioning and configuration activities across different operational groups and technology silos. We recommend that organizations start small, with clear objectives and goals. For example, an organization might set a goal to reduce virtual server sprawl and decrease wait time for new virtual server provisioning by using automation to standardize workload deployments first in development labs and then in specific production workload environments. Over time, as confidence in the abilities of the tools increases and the network, server, and storage teams learn how best to work together to define policies and image configurations, it becomes easier to expand the use of sophisticated policy-based automation more broadly across the datacenter. We see most organizations go through several stages on their way to implementing fully mature, automated, virtualized datacenter operations strategies. But they all begin with these types of focused, quick payback first steps. A B O U T T H I S A N A L Y S T Mary Johnston Turner, research director, System Management Software, contributes to IDC's coverage of the system management software industry. Her major areas of interest include virtualization management, cloud computing operations, datacenter automation, and IT management software as a service. Mary's coverage includes market forecasts, competitive assessments, strategic vendor analyses, and delivery of custom consulting projects. A B O U T T H I S P U B L I C A T I O N This publication was produced by IDC Go-to-Market Services. The opinion, analysis, and research results presented herein are drawn from more detailed research and analysis independently conducted and published by IDC, unless specific vendor sponsorship is noted. IDC Go-to-Market Services makes IDC content available in a wide range of formats for distribution by various companies. A license to distribute IDC content does not imply endorsement of or opinion about the licensee. C O P Y R I G H T A N D R E S T R I C T I O N S Any IDC information or reference to IDC that is to be used in advertising, press releases, or promotional materials requires prior written approval from IDC. For permission requests, contact the GMS information line at 508-988-7610 or gms@idc.com. Translation and/or localization of this document requires an additional license from IDC. For more information on IDC, visit www.idc.com. For more information on IDC GMS, visit www.idc.com/gms. Global Headquarters: 5 Speen Street Framingham, MA 01701 USA P.508.872.8200 F.508.935.4015 www.idc.com 4 ©2010 IDC

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