November 14, 2008, 1:22 PM — Virtualization is transforming the data center and solution providers are migrating their customers to a virtual environment to create a more flexible IT infrastructure, reduce costs and maximize storage resources. At the same time, however, virtualization introduces some new concerns. By understanding the possibilities and challenges associated with virtualization, resellers can maximize their profit by becoming a trusted resource for businesses who want to take advantage of this technology. In turn customers will begin to realize the potential of their virtualized deployments and resellers will be able to add to their bottom line.
What do solution providers need to know before migrating their customers to a virtualization environment?
Before implementing virtualization in a customer environment, partners must look beyond physical servers to consider the impact virtualization will have on the entire IT infrastructure.
At the most fundamental level, customers want their applications to be available regardless of whether the application is running on a physical or a virtual platform. They also want the same level of protection for data that lives on virtual machines and to ensure that their virtual environment can be recovered quickly in the face of disaster. It is also imperative that there is visibility and control into their virtual environment to ensure optimal utilization.
What impact does virtualization have on the IT infrastructure?
Virtualization introduces more complexity into the IT infrastructure since virtual machines, as well as physical ones, must now be managed, including a growing range of virtualization platforms from vendors such as VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, and others.
For example, letâ€™s take a look just at data protection and storage. Standard backup technologies that have been used successfully in physical environments create significant overhead when applied to a virtual world. Installing a traditional backup client inside a virtual machine is a valid way of protecting it but demands additional system resources needed by other virtual machines hosted on the same physical server. And the disaster recovery advantages that are inherent in the architecture of many virtualization solutions cannot be exploited with this backup methodology as restores at the virtual machine file level are not possible.
Storage management can also be difficult in a virtual environment. While many server virtualization solutions include built-in storage management functionality, these tools can be problematic in a heterogeneous environment. In addition, because virtualization adds a layer of abstraction, is also makes storage more challenging by obfuscating visibility into the IT environment while also increasing the amount of storage to be managed.
How can partners use virtualization to improve a customerâ€™s storage utilization?
With virtualization, solution providers can help improve their customersâ€™ hardware utilization by enabling them to pool all storage into logical groups that can be reallocated quickly or in real time based on demand. The most useful virtualization tools can do this across any storage array from a variety of vendors, running a variety of operating systems, and from a single management interface.
When storage resources are virtualized, they appear as a single resource. Data can be moved transparently across vendors and operating systems to utilize available capacity. Storage management tools can offer customers additional benefits by enabling them to classify data by age or type so that less valuable or less current data can be moved automatically to higher capacity, less costly storage.
What are the customer benefits of using management toolsets that work across both virtual and physical environments?
Customers that use one set of tools for managing their physical environment and another for managing their virtual environment find that maintaining a complex set of processes and tools is inefficient, ineffective, and error-prone. In contrast, a toolset that works across the same physical, virtual, and multi-vendor environment provides several benefits.
With a single, centralized view of the entire infrastructure, customers can discover and visualize how their applications map to the resources they consume across all elements in the data center. They gain better visibility into resource usage that, in turn, leads to improved resource utilization and service levels. In addition, the customerâ€™s ability to automatically map consumed and unconsumed resources to the business and underlying application enables more prudent capacity planning practices.
What power consumption and green computing benefits does virtualization offer end users?
Arguably the greatest savings a customer will realize is through physically reducing server count, freeing up space, and reducing the load on HVAC systems. Virtualization can help customers consolidate many applications onto fewer physical servers, which requires less energy to power the boxes and cool them. Virtualization improves server utilization, reduces server count, and reduces the need for additional purchases.
How does virtualization impact a customerâ€™s bottom line?
The impact of virtualization on the bottom line can be significant. With fewer servers required, fewer people are required to manage those computers, less space is required to house them, and fewer kilowatt hours of power are required to run themâ€”all of which translates into hard dollar savings.
However, to enjoy the rewards of lower capital and operational costs, customers must be able to manage their virtualized environment much as they do the physical one. Indeed, in the world of virtualization, manageability is the ultimate bottom line. Virtualization solutions can help resellers meet their business needs while opening the doors to new customer opportunities. As a trusted resource, solution providers can create new business opportunities by including virtualization in their quiver of solutions to help their customers manage the IT needs with fewer servers and staff managing them. Thus, helping their customer grow the business and be profitable.
What options can VARs provide their customers who require a complete, unified server and storage virtualization platform?
One of the most promising frameworks to emerge recently integrates storage virtualization technology directly in an open source hypervisor. The resulting unified server and storage virtualization platform represents an efficient and effective solution to offer customers who want to realize the same benefits in a virtual environment as they do in their physical environment.
From a single console, customers have visibility and control of physical, virtual, and multi-vendor server and storage assets. This makes it easier to set up virtual machines, configure snapshots, understand where storage is located, and much more. Also, because these capabilities are provided in a single package, deployment and support are significantly streamlined.
How do you select a good vendor for a heterogeneous (virtual, physical, and multi-vendor) environment?
Moving virtualization from a test to a production environment can be challenging, so it is recommended that organizations work with a partner that has experience and expertise not only in a variety of virtualization technologies but also in data center implementations in complex, heterogeneous physical environments. The toolset they use is also a critical consideration, with preference placed on tools and solutions that have proven effective in truly heterogeneous environments.