The benefits of virtualization are unassailable: increased agility, scale, and cost savings to name but a few. However, so too are the monitoring challenges posed by these environments—including complexity, lack of visibility and control, and inefficiency.
This is the last of a series of 7 essays which reveal proven best practices you should follow to monitor virtualized environments—best practices that help organizations get the most business value from their virtualization investments.
Today, it is more vital than ever for IT teams to track, measure, and demonstrate their value. This is true for two key reasons:
- First, from a business users’ standpoint, the automated, on-demand nature of virtualized environments can be both a blessing and curse: While users may perceive the benefits, they may be even further removed from the individuals responsible for maintaining and delivering those solutions. Consequently, they may wonder about IT’s contribution, and the importance of the team’s roles within the business.
- Second, businesses increasingly need to compare the relative merits of internal and externally hosted IT services, such as virtualized resources in a public cloud. A business executive could easily and quickly find how much a secure, cloud-based server hosting offering would cost each month. To make the best decisions for their businesses, executives need to be able to understand the cost of hosting a comparable type of service or infrastructure internally.
Thus, IT needs to be armed with accurate, timely information about the cost and value of the internal virtualized infrastructure. As with any self service tool, business users begin to think of it as “free” – This can break the IT value chain to users. Here’s the problem. In the past a business unit that needed a server would order it though IT, wait for delivery, IT would install and configure, and then capital expenses would accrue as well as maintenance and support. It easily showed up on the business unit’s bottom line. But with a virtualized environment or private cloud all that’s needed is a request to a self-service portal. Is it any wonder that IT departments are seeing that users think it is already paid for? After all (or so the thinking goes), the company already owns and supports the hardware … so isn’t it free? To help understand the costs for internal vs. external IT, many organizations seek to directly compare internal costs to those of public cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon or Rackspace.
While VMware has built-in chargeback capabilities, they are very complex to use, and they are not integrated with the monitoring environment or tied to usage of physical systems. Consequently, with these built-in capabilities alone, it will be next to impossible to gain a complete picture of resource usage and cost of given services.
To overcome this challenge, two models are most common.
- When organizations have not implemented chargeback, the immediate solution is to report on usage. This provides business unit users the with data showing the value IT delivers, and can provide the data that reminds them of unused servers that could be freed to more effectively allocate virtualization and cloud resources.
- If a chargeback capability is desired, integration to enterprise financial systems can provide the data needed to allocated costs and resource usage to users. Monitoring solutions are key to delivering this proof of value delivered in either scenario. They should be capable of report on usage and of integrating usage data with both enterprise financial systems, and external cloud-based billing applications.
To knowledgeably assess the cost and value of virtualized environments, businesses need to have usage correlated with physical servers, both those outside and inside the virtual environment. Further, organizations need to tie resource usage back to specific groups or applications. These capabilities are essential in accurately understanding the real-world cost of maintaining a virtualized environment for a given application, service, or business unit.
Over the past few weeks we’ve discussed several best practices which IT teams can use to maximize the value they are receiving from virtualized investments. By following these best practices, IT teams can…
- Gain a centralized, complete picture of the infrastructure. By monitoring both physical elements such as networks and servers, as well virtual elements such as VMs, ESX hosts, vCenter IT can deliver accurate insights into the performance that end users experience from business applications running on them.
- Automate monitoring of VMs. To manage dynamic virtualized environments, IT needs a range of automation capabilities to minimize administrative effort, while leveraging sustained and meaningful monitoring information. Automated discovery and agentless monitoring via policy templates, configuration and deployment of agent-based monitoring, and display help provide consistent visibility into elastic environments.
- Correlate physical and virtual resources. Understanding which physical resources are supporting virtual infrastructure, including networking equipment and server platforms, helps IT better allocate physical resources. This helps ensure VMs running critical workloads are not starved for resources.
- Maintain awareness with vMotion, HA, and DRS. Automatic detection of vMotion, HA, and DRS events helps identify symptoms that may point to chronic problems. Having the ability to maintain consistent monitoring regardless of these changes, even when IP or MAC addresses of a given service change, is critical.
- Fully integrate monitoring with the rest of the infrastructure. Flexible APIs and customization capabilities enable organizations to integrate monitoring into the elastic infrastructure. Automated deployment and configuration of monitoring, along with the ability to rapidly create monitoring probes for new technology helps keep IT administrators focused on managing infrastructure, not their monitoring solution.
- Track and communicate value of IT and virtualization. IT needs a cohesive view of monitoring and resource usage, across the entire physical and virtual IT landscape to accurately track and report on the usage, cost, and value of their virtualized infrastructure.
By following these best practices, administrators can gain the cohesive views they need to more quickly identify and address issues—and to more proactively manage their environment so they can better guard against outages and performance degradation.
To effectively monitor and manage their virtualized environments, IT teams need a complete monitoring solution, one that offers a centralized view of all of the physical, virtual, and application layers and one that automates the discovery and deployment of monitoring. Leveraging comprehensive infrastructure coverage of physical and virtualized IT infrastructure—and the intelligence and automation required to efficiently gather and present this monitoring information—provides the capabilities IT teams need to employ best monitoring practices and realize optimal performance, availability, and value from their IT infrastructures.