The New Virtualization Management. Five Best Practices

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1 The New Virtualization Management Five Best Practices

2 Establish a regular reporting schedule to keep track of changes in your environment. Optimizing Capacity, Availability and Performance in a Modern Virtual Infrastructure According to Gartner, more new VMs were deployed in the public cloud than on premises in But the majority of public cloud growth is due to the development of new applications, rather than migration. To remain agile, enterprises need to maintain focus on their on-premises virtual infrastructure, even as new workloads are developed in the cloud. A sound virtualization management strategy will help enterprises retain the value of their on-premises infrastructure and is still the best option for a variety of use cases, such as when IT needs to maintain operational control of legacy applications or ensure access to detailed data history. The average lifespan of an on-premises VM is five years far longer than the typical cloud VM. Dedicating a small amount of time to regular management and maintenance can ensure those on-premises VMs are useful to your organization for years to come. Maintaining this often-overlooked area of IT can yield exponential returns saving your organization money that can go towards new IT projects. It s as simple as monitoring virtual machine usage data over time and noting changes in capacity, performance and memory. Keeping track can help IT ensure optimal performance and pinpoint problems quickly. Data gleaned from virtual machine usage can inform and enable wise capacity planning decisions that result in optimized use of the virtual environment. Ideally, workloads will be balanced across all virtual machines and clusters, which should run at about 75 to 80 percent capacity. With a simple virtualization management strategy, IT can maximize the value of existing virtual resources, reduce risk and eliminate unnecessary capital expenditure on new hardware. In this whitepaper, learn best practices for up-front capacity planning, continuous performance monitoring, root cause analysis and VM right-sizing. Find out how establishing a regular reporting schedule can help you keep track of changes in your environment, prepare for upcoming anticipated hardware expenditures and optimize capacity, availability and performance over the long term. 1 Maintain Balance in Your Virtual Environment with Capacity Management Understanding capacity and resource consumption is critical to the success of a virtualization manager. It is the first step in ensuring proper virtual resource allocation. Leave room for overhead, and distribute it evenly It s common for IT managers to buy more equipment than is really necessary it s the safe option that leaves plenty of room for overhead. We ve seen it all 2

3 too often at StrataCloud. However, in those same environments, we ll often find clusters that are completely out of resources. This imbalance of workloads across the environment is typical. There is more capacity than necessary, but some VMs and clusters are still strained. This is a classic case of poor capacity management, and without proper insight, it can lead to the incorrect assumption that more equipment is needed. Monitor capacity trends over time to anticipate consumption changes and new hardware requirements. Simply having overhead isn t enough. Ideally, workloads will be balanced across all virtual machines and clusters, which should run at about 75 to 80 percent capacity. StrataCloud Virtualization Management Center (VMC) shows where VMs and clusters are oversized, as well as where there is extra capacity. Having this kind of insight on a daily basis can help IT managers maintain balance in their virtual infrastructure. Monitor capacity trends over time In addition to daily capacity reports, it s important to keep track of capacity trends over time. Access to historical data can help IT managers identify peak and standard utilization periods. While a daily capacity report might show a cluster running at a higher than ideal utilization rate, an IT manager s fi rst move shouldn t be to immediately move workloads or VMs off that cluster. Viewing the historical data can provide context. For example, there may be a peak every few weeks in usage for a particular application, which could explain why a specific cluster appears strained on a certain day. Tracking historical data can help IT managers ensure those peaks and valleys are consistent over time. Present a bill to demonstrate that virtual resource usage incurs a tangible cost. You may also have seasonal usage depending on the business. Identifying those trends with the hindsight offered by historical data can ensure nothing goes wrong at peak volume. Seeing capacity trends over time will enable you to make the correct business decision when it comes to buying new hardware, as well as anticipate major changes in your consumption in advance. Historical data can also help ensure you are prepared when resources are running low. By keeping track of upward trends in consumption, you can ensure you have ample time to approve the purchase of new equipment and also have the data to prove that it s necessary. 2 Leverage Chargeback or Showback to Encourage Resource Conservation Communication with application owners is a key element of any successful virtualization strategy. Whether you charge developers and application owners for the virtual resources they consume (chargeback) or simply show them how much they are consuming (showback), awareness can go a long way. In addition to demonstrating to business leaders that resources can be reclaimed without affecting service levels, these strategies give application owners an incentive to let you reclaim resources. 3

4 Are business decisions creating unnecessary expenses? When business users request more virtualization resources than they need, they probably think of it in terms of insurance. By showing that they re costing the business money and wasting resources, you may be able to inspire more conservative requests. This is especially true for your worst offenders those who are requesting significant overhead that could be applied to other workloads that need it. A virtualization management tool like StrataCloud VMC that tracks the exact cost-per-hour and percentage of total consumption for each virtual machine, cluster and datacenter can be a powerful tool for inspiring more conservative use. Presenting a bill will solidify the notion that virtual resources are just like any other utility, where usage incurs a real cost, and as such should be used only as much as they are needed. Meet with application owners regularly Set up regular meetings with virtualization users to review chargeback or showback, and invite them to be a part of the resource preservation process. Establishing a regular billing cycle (either monthly or semi-annually, depending on what makes sense for each user) will keep you in front of your biggest virtualization consumers, help you establish a relationship, and ensure they feel accountable for the resources they are using. Use right-sizing data to maintain an up-to-date budget and strategy. Knowing where major resource expenditures are happening will also prove valuable for budgeting and forecasting. For example, if a cluster is wholly allocated to a new development project, it would be wise to view resource consumption of that cluster by both cost and percentage of total availability. Identifying that a large percentage of your virtual environment is dedicated to a single, crucial workflow could alert you to an impending capital expenditure. 3 Right-size to Maximize Existing Resources To maintain an optimal virtual infrastructure, it s essential to strike the right balance between available resources and workloads. Once under-used, overprovisioned resources have been identified, right-sizing will help you reclaim them, decrease wasted resource capacity and reallocate it to other workloads that need more memory and vcpu. In the process, you ll increase host density and make your entire virtual infrastructure run more efficiently. Right-size in context To avoid any negative impact on the business, it s important to understand the application workload on each VM you are right-sizing. The number of vcpus a VM requires will vary greatly depending on the type of workload the machine is processing, so it s best to examine allocation for each VM in context, rather than applying the same vcpu to pcpu ratio across your infrastructure. 4

5 A comprehensive virtualization management tool will enable you to set up specific profiles that test every configuration parameter, as well as more general profiles that test for a few key features. To right-size in context, collect data about workload usage over time and compare it to the application recommendation. Applications often recommend large amounts of resources to ensure performance, but consumption varies greatly depending on how the application is being used and how the environment is set up. Review workload performance trends over at least the last few months to account for seasonal increases in consumption. Reclaim unused resources In conjunction with right-sizing, set up a plan for reclaiming under-used resources and reallocating them to VMs operating at max capacity and/or memory. Once reclamation and reallocation are complete, you ll have a much more accurate picture of the size of your virtual infrastructure and the amount of resources you have available for future requests. Use this information to establish a timeline and predict if and when you ll need to add new hardware. While right-sizing is a tactical task, applying this data for reallocation and prediction can help you maintain a sound virtualization strategy. For a detailed right-sizing guide, download our Right-Sizing ebook. By accessing a snapshot of your environment at a specific point in time, you can pinpoint what caused the problem and take remediation measures. And seeing exactly what your environment looked like at the moment the problem occurred can help you identify similar issues in the future. 4 Identify Issues With Profiles, Alarming and Root Cause Analysis Profiles and alarming Profi les can simplify virtual infrastructure administration by enabling administrators to quickly make changes across an environment and ensuring that both business compliance goals and regulatory requirements are met. Changing settings across your entire virtual infrastructure can be a daunting task, and many administrators turn to powershell scripts to help get the job done quickly. But you may not be aware that system-wide changes can be made without ever having to run a script by setting up a simple profile. Use profi les to simplify routine tasks such as changing firewall settings or changing advanced settings on a host, or set up profiles to update network settings, such as the DNS or NTP server. A comprehensive virtualization management tool will enable you to set up specific profiles that test every configuration parameter, as well as more general profiles that test for a few key features. Specific profiles are useful for ensuring all hosts are configured in the same way. If you ve configured one host as a benchmark, you can set up the configuration as a profile and test all future confi gurations against it. In environments with more variables, a general profi le that tests for consistency of key features can be a helpful quality control measure. For large environments, general profiles that only capture key securityor operations-related properties will reduce noise in compliance reports. Alarming alerts administrators to changes that could compromise the network before they become major issues. Set up alarms for security, compliance and operational issues that could impact performance or availability. Run alarming 5

6 reports on a weekly basis to ensure you are alerted to potential issues in your environment early and can take appropriate remediation measures before issues become serious. Root cause analysis Tracking historical data can yield powerful insights. Ensure your management solution tracks both historical topology data and historical metric data. It s common for administrators to hear about an issue days or weeks after it occurred. But application owners and business users will still expect you to identify the cause and prevent it from occurring in the future. Other times, you may note that an application or server went down in the middle of the night or on a weekend. If you re alerted that a host went offline days, historical data can help you pinpoint the cause even if the issue occurred days, weeks or months ago. For example, the records may show that one of your administrators updated the firmware, explaining the reboot, or made a change to the VMkernel network settings. By accessing a snapshot of your environment at a specific point in time, you can pinpoint what caused the problem and take remediation measures. And seeing exactly what your environment looked like at the moment the problem occurred can help you identify similar issues in the future. Used in conjunction with profiles and alarming, reports can also help you pinpoint problems and intervene early, ensuring you maintain optimal performance in your virtual infrastructure and reap all the rewards virtualization management has to offer: visibility, efficiency, accuracy and balance across your virtual infrastructure. 5 Maximize the Value of Virtualization Management with Reporting It s clear how critical the tenets of virtualization management are for maintaining an optimal environment capacity management, chargeback and showback, right-sizing and the ability to pinpoint problems with profiles, alarming and root cause analysis. Reporting is how you demonstrate the value of those virtualization management efforts to IT and business leaders. The ability to design and share reports with both IT and business leaders will ensure you effectively demonstrate the status of your virtual environment over time. Reports can help communicate the value of right-sizing to application owners, or demonstrate to business leaders the money you have saved by avoiding new infrastructure costs. The ability to customize reports takes the value one step further. Taking a little bit of time to customize a report to the needs of the person who has requested it can ensure you get your point across clearly, in a way that is digestible for each individual or department. There are no set parameters for the ideal reporting schedule. What s most important is that you set a schedule that works for you and meet the needs of your business and IT constituencies. Reports enable you to stay up-to-date on the status of your environment, keep track of how much time is left until you ll need to buy new infrastructure, and share this information with others. Used in conjunction with profiles and alarming, reports can also help you pinpoint problems and intervene early, ensuring you maintain optimal performance in your virtual infrastructure and reap all the rewards virtualization management has to offer: visibility, effi ciency, accuracy and balance across your virtual infrastructure. 6

7 StrataCloud Is Your Virtualization Management Partner If you could benefit from more granular insight into your VMware environment and a data-driven right-sizing strategy, StrataCloud is here to guide you. Our virtualization management solution provides IT professionals with a resource for capacity planning and performance monitoring in highly virtualized VMware environments. Our dashboard shows a detailed snapshot of your virtual infrastructure in a single view, enabling you to pinpoint potential problems quickly. Paired with historical data, broad reporting capabilities and detailed metrics, StrataCloud enables you to optimize capital expenditures and ensure infrastructure teams spend less time reacting and more time delivering value to your business. To get started, download a free trial or contact us: 53 Perimeter Center East, Suite 201, Atlanta, GA

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