7 Crucial Steps to Take Before Virtualizing

By Sam Narisi (Profile)
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Wednesday, January 16th 2013
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Virtualization is a hot topic in IT these days, and for good reason. Virtualizing servers, desktops and other areas can lower costs, increase hardware and energy efficiency, and simplify management for the tech staff.

But to maximize the benefits and avoid costly pitfalls, virtualization requires careful planning – and that includes deciding what items to leave out of the virtualization plan altogether.

While there are always exceptions, these are some of the things experts warn IT departments to think twice about virtualizing:

Servers that Already Run at High Capacity

One of the top benefits of server virtualization is that it allows organizations to consolidate servers to run multiple virtual machine on the same piece of physical hardware. That means the company can use all or most of a machine’s resources, rather than just a fraction as is often the case in a non-virtualized environment. But in some situations, a physical server is already running at close to its full capacity, so there won’t be as much benefit in virtualization.

Applications with Tricky Licensing Issues

Unfortunately, even though virtualization has become quite common, many software vendors have yet to update their licensing practices accordingly. In those cases, it may be unclear whether an application can exist in a virtual environment or how many licenses are required when software is installed in one location and accessed by several virtual desktops, for example. In situations where licensing requirements are unclear or too expensive, the organization’s best bet may be to hold off on virtualization and try to negotiate with the vendor for a virtualization-friendly license.

Predictable and Stable Environments

As the common expression goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If something is already working well, adding virtualization to the mix will only add complexity and increase the possibility of downtime. One exception would be if the company needs to run an old operating system that’s no longer supported. In those cases, virtualization will be the only way to continue running an existing system.

Key Elements for Virtualization Planning

After the company decides which servers and/or desktops to include in a virtualization strategy, tech staff must take some steps to get ready before the project begins. Mainly, IT must be sure the organization’s infrastructure can handle the new demands of a virtual environment.

These are some of the steps IT departments should take before implementing virtualization:

1.  Determine if Current Servers are Powerful Enough

Virtualization helps companies by letting them utilize the unused capacity on existing machines – and that means for that to work, those machines need to be powerful enough to house multiple virtual servers. IT also needs to come up with an accurate estimate of the company’s capacity needs to make sure there are enough physical servers in place.

2.  Consider Storage Needs

When servers are virtualized, the storage infrastructure must often be updated as well. In many cases, companies have to upgrade to a centralized storage system in order to take advantage of some virtualization features, such as live migration. And often, companies find their storage needs increasing to more than they can handle, or that an out-dated storage system is hurting performance.