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Issue Date: June 2008

AnalystWatch: Server virtualisation

June 2008
Alan Rodger, Butler Group analyst

Server virtualisation has made a huge mark on the IT industry in recent years. First, it was positioned successfully in order to solve resources shortages, and subsequently it became associated with the need to ensure that enterprise computing was as 'green' as possible.

While both of these are important requirements, wise IT managers will have an eye toward the long-term effects of investment in server virtualisation in terms of its bearing on infrastructure manageability and on the quality of service provided to enterprise IT users.
Complexity has brought enormous problems to the task of managing enterprise data centres. This issue spans the mixture of old and new technology types, manufacturer variations across individual technology types (such as storage, networks, servers, and systems software), virtualised and non-virtualised parts of the infrastructure componentry, and the fact that different parts may be differently situated geographically and may even be hosted by another organisation.
There are few management tools that enable those with the responsibility of overseeing such infrastructures to gain both high-level and in-depth viewpoints. Most focus on single technologies, or on a perspective such as the virtualised areas or how automation is applied.
At the same time, the demands on enterprise infrastructures have increased greatly, both in terms of the capacity needed including its flexibility to meet demand variation, and the levels of service quality that are expected.
In today's business environment, however, it is seldom acceptable for infrastructure costs to increase in order to satisfy such demand, so enterprises need reliable means of establishing an efficiency strategy that caters for individual needs, such as the differing and changing mix of problems that can constitute enterprises' priorities or constraints.
The effects of potential remedial approaches, such as server consolidation and virtualisation of servers, databases, or applications, can be fairly hard to predict reliably when considering their deployment individually, and more so collectively.
Ultimately, however, enterprises' optimal options might lie in deploying a combination of such technologies, and even then it is important to reliably achieve effective benefits with regard to individual infrastructure configurations and the workloads they support.
Plenty has been claimed, and much has also been delivered, in terms of benefits from virtualisation, but given the lack of maturity and experience generally available, there is a danger that virtualisation technology could be used haphazardly and spawn an even worse mess of virtualised and unvirtualised server infrastructure.
However, CiRBA has developed a solution that supports both initial virtualisation initiatives and ongoing optimisation and management of virtualised server environments, by collecting data from systems in heterogeneous environments, analysing the data, and providing strong visualisation and drill-down capabilities in a display of its recommended configuration of virtualised servers.
The automated analysis of environment compatibility is driven by a customisable, rule-based methodology that incorporates configuration considerations, business constraints, and workload constraints. CiRBA provides a rich set of visualisation capabilities that map server to server compatibility in a highly graphical and intuitive way.
Servers are arranged in rows and columns, the rows representing source servers and columns representing target servers. Based on the rules, compatibility scores on a scale of 0 to 100 are generated for each source and target server combination (100 representing high compatibility).
The visualisation of server mapping is colour-coded, with green representing high compatibility and red representing low or no compatibility. Clicking on the table cells generates detailed information on the factors yielding the score. The mapping diagram includes clear visualisation of the optimal transfer given the technical, business, and workload constraints.
Management of virtualised infrastructure is an area that IT organisations often struggle with, and the CiRBA tool will be a valuable facilitator of optimisation in the enterprise server environment.
Too often, virtualisation and data centre consolidation are driven by the single factor consideration of utilisation, and aimed at ensuring coexistence of workloads, rather than optimisation.
CiRBA has an impressive pipeline of initiatives, such as chargebacks and automated notifications, which in future could further help organisations reach a higher level of virtualisation governance and management.
Source: Computergram


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