Holistically Manage and Solve Virtualization Issues

IT infrastructure and data centers circulate the information that is the life-blood of any organization. But to be productive and cost-effective, the organization's IT assets must be managed well.

Effective management is the process of using resources (servers, storage, I/O, networks, hardware, software and services) smartly, and that in turn requires insight into and awareness of applications, workloads, resources and the entire environment.

This e-book focuses on virtualization and the need to manage and solve virtualization issues holistically. It highlights the flexibility and agility of virtualization and describes an approach you can follow to make your virtual environment more effective and productive.

High utilization is good, high effectiveness is better

Your IT infrastructure and assets are in high demand, but are they effective?

Consider a few of the trends IT faces today:

  • With the growth of the business comes more data, and with more data comes high utilization of IT assets. However, that high utilization doesn't imply high productivity. High volume doesn't guarantee high quality of production, meaning that IT's quality of service and deliverables may not be at the level customers expect them to be.
  • The more complexity there is in your IT landscape and the more highly utilized your systems are, the more likely it is that some work may need to be re-done, which can lead to increased costs.
  • There's a focus on cutting costs in general instead of figuring out exactly why the costs are so high in the first place, and then using those insights to make changes that will result in cost savings. Focusing on removing barriers to productivity and enabling growth instead of making arbitrary cuts is a more effective long-term strategy.
  • Not only is there more data, but the data is in fact getting larger. That affects the underlying infrastructure: the servers, storage, network, hardware, software, virtualization, cloud and everything that goes along with it.
  • Software-defined management seems useful at first glance, but IT still has to manage the infrastructure, resources and, most of all, the applications.
  • Software- and hardware-defined environments are becoming more complex. To some degree, the software layers abstract what's going on underneath, but the task of IT is to cut through those layers, then find and fix the problems, issues and bottlenecks rather than simply masking them.

The wide variety of applications and workloads that are critical to your business need to run on optimized servers, storage, I/O, networks, hardware, software and services to be efficient and ensure a positive user experience

In short, IT infrastructure and assets need effective management to be productive and cost-effective. The wide variety of applications and workloads that are critical to your business need to run on optimized servers, storage, I/O, networks, hardware, software and services to be efficient and ensure a positive user experience. That applies to legacy assets, assets that either have been or can be virtualized, and new and emerging assets.

Stay mindful of those trends and take them into account to make your virtual environment more productive and cost-effective.

The agility and flexibility of virtualization

Many in IT think of virtualization only in the context of consolidation. In some environments, the main question is, "How many virtual machines can we stuff into a physical machine?" Some workloads lend themselves to that perspective and in some cases, there is a perception that a particular application can't be virtualized to improve performance.

But in reality, virtualization means enablement and abstraction. It is an opportunity for you to increase agility and flexibility by running databases on virtual servers and physical resources, and to perform migration, maintenance, load balancing and failover.

Virtualization is useful not only for maximal utilization of the hardware and software, but also for its role in making IT infrastructure highly effective by enabling more functions and tasks. Keeping both roles in mind will help you realize the promise of virtualization in your organization.

Virtualization is useful not only for maximal utilization of the hardware and software, but also for its role in making IT infrastructure highly effective by enabling more functions and tasks.

Insight into workload bottlenecks

Consolidation is a valid motive for virtualizing, but IT teams that have to deal with the aggregation often find that if they don't manage it carefully, consolidation introduces bottlenecks. Not all servers need to be consolidated the same way.

An important part of task management is gaining insight into the impact of applications and their workloads, not only in preparing to migrate them, but also after migration. It's important to ask yourself and your team incisive questions about workloads on VMs. How do the workloads interact? Do they compete with each other? At which level are the bottlenecks? Are they in the application, the database, the middleware, the file system or the OS? Are they in the CPU, the memory or the I/O?

To be successful in virtualization, you have to gain that deep level of insight into the environment — not just the hypervisor, the operating system or the application, but how they work together. As noted above, well-managed virtualization means that your infrastructure is both highly utilized and highly effective.

Focusing on the applications

Besides the usual service level objectives (SLO) and service level agreements (SLA), every application has a PACE attribute or characteristic:

  • Performance — All applications bear workloads and operate in an environment with some level of expected performance and associated metrics. It could be high and low performance, reads and writes, random and sequential, I/O and bandwidth.
  • Availability — All applications have some attribute of availability, such as durability, resilience, high availability or different levels of security and data protection. Availability and performance are mutually dependent.
  • Cost/Capacity — Every application has an up-front cost, recurring costs, maintenance cost and people cost. Although cost per gigabyte is a top metric in storage, other important metrics include cost per transaction, cost per activity, cost for work being done, and even cost savings for work being done. Capacity is the attribute that covers the quantity of resources being used.
  • Economics — Cutting costs is not the only way to save money. In some cases, it takes spending to boost productivity, remove complexity and, ultimately, lower cost. Economics is not only about cutting, but also about enabling.

In the shift from utilization and efficiency to greater productivity and effectiveness, the focus is on the applications. Don't make the mistake of treating everything the same; if you use tools that afford you deep insight into applications and workloads, you can balance among performance, availability, cost/capacity and economics.

Server, storage and VSAN

Server and storage I/O metrics matter because the best metrics are those that best represent the environment. They could be historical, point-in-time or real-time, but the best metrics help with planning, management, simulation, benchmarks, tuning and optimization. They also lead to useful insight into how resources are being utilized to deliver quality of service that meets customer satisfaction.

What's in your server storage I/O toolbox? It's important to have tools that examine the application, the OS, the hypervisor and the actual hardware resources, plus tools for generating workloads for simulation, testing and diagnostics. The tools need to provide insight from the application down to the hardware and at all points in between. The hypervisor, with the way it's configured and deployed, acts as the glue that holds all those layers together.

A large part of solving virtualization issues is keenly understanding the virtual storage area network (VSAN), or, in the case of VMware, it could be VMware VirtualCenter. How is it configured? How is it being used, and do the different applications fit? Where do applications fit in the stack? Are they close to the hardware or up higher in the software? If you know where your applications fit and understand the relationships, causes and effects among them, you'll develop a clear picture of the overall environment. Instead of just pushing buttons, turning knobs and hoping for improvements, you'll arm yourself for better problem solving and tuning.

It's important to have tools that examine the application, the OS, the hypervisor and the actual hardware resources, plus tools for generating workloads for simulation, testing and diagnostics.

Removing complexity

One of the biggest benefits of virtualization is to remove complexity from the environment. That includes removing complexity in the tools used to acquire insight into applications and workloads. Therefore, to achieve the goal of holistically managing and solving virtualization issues, you have to know the characteristics of the applications and workloads running in your virtual environment. By testing with different metrics — overall productivity, suitability to requirements, PACE attributes — you and your IT team can acquire insight into those applications and workloads. That insight helps you find and remove bottlenecks instead of simply moving or masking them.

About this e-book series

With this e-book series, we aim to help you reduce the time you spend managing and administering backups with simple, cost-effective solutions that will meet your needs at the right price point, and won't take weeks to design and implement.

Our forward-thinking solutions help you meet and exceed your application uptime and data recovery SLAs, while reducing the risk of data loss. They protect all your data across all platforms – physical, virtual, and cloud – and simplify data protection even in the most complex and diverse IT environments. Altogether you'll spend less time managing backups and more time innovating.

About Quest

At Quest, our purpose is to solve complex problems with simple solutions. We accomplish this with a philosophy focused on great products, great service and an overall goal of being simple to do business with. Our vision is to deliver technology that eliminates the need to choose between efficiency and effectiveness, which means you and your organization can spend less time on IT administration and more time on business innovation.