Top tips for virtualisation

A guide to making the transition to a new way of working without huge time and financial implications.

PC and server virtualisation software can potentially shake up the entire IT world. Virtualisation technology allows a single system to run multiple incompatible operating systems - and their applications, meaning that long-standing barriers to flexibility and compatibility can be broken down whilst dramatically improving hardware utilisation rates. Virtualisation software is something that every IT manager should be considering.

All IT managers should also appreciate the necessity for companies to run multiple operating systems without the financial constraints that purchasing new hardware and software can bring. These ten tips, supplied by IT Infrastructure services and solutions company, C&C Technology are intended to help organisations transition to new software without huge time and financial implications.

1. Understand your infrastructure.  Before making any decisions concerning virtualisation it is important to understand your current infrastructure; this would include numbers and types of servers, operating systems, CPU and memory utilisation, application names and versions.  Without a thorough understanding of these components it would be difficult to understand how virtualisation technologies could best be used within your organisation. 

2. Not everything should be virtualised.  Although virtualisation brings many benefits and may be used in a variety of environments, it is not necessarily the answer to everything.  Operating system virtualisation will provide most benefit when replacing a physical server which is being under–utilised.  For example, a typical server running Active Directory may only use a small percentage of its processing power and is therefore ideal for virtualisation. 

3. Understand your administration model. Virtualisation brings with it a new style of administration that may impact the existing processes in place within your organisation.  For example, where there is a Server Team responsible for the provisioning of new servers they may have to adapt the administration model in order to have the ability to create servers in the new virtual environment. 

4. Understand what applications you have. Before virtualising any applications it is best practise to understand exactly what applications are included in the estate, what versions they are currently using and how they work.  Having a full understanding of your application estate enables you to make the best decisions when considering virtualising those applications. 

5. Capacity Planning. Make sure you fully understand the infrastructure that will be used to virtualise your environment. You need to understand all components required to virtualise the proposed services, especially the specification and capacity of the chosen systems.  If this is not done correctly then the solution may not provide the expected performance and service levels

6. Know the technologies. There are a number of virtualisation opportunities (including server, operating system, storage and application) and many vendors offering products and solutions. Having a clear understanding of what vendors are offering, and how their products and solutions compare, will enable you to choose the best solution for your environment.  For example, in the application virtualisation space both Citrix and Softricity offer solutions, although they do this in different ways, using different methods.

7. Make the best use of virtualisation ‘tools’.  Virtualisation is a complex and technical subject. Taking an environment from the physical to virtual can be a tricky task if administrators do not fully understand how to best design and implement virtualisation technologies.  However, there are a number of tools available that will help with the implementation and migration from physical to virtual environments which will save time and money (with many of them offering ‘drag & drop’ style management interfaces).

8. Use the vendor and consulting community to help you understand the various virtualisation technologies available in the marketplace today. The solutions available are wide and can appear at first glance complex. Use the experts to enable you to confidently make informed decisions.

9. Before implementing and virtualisation technologies it is important to understand the cost benefits that it brings with it. For example if the required hardware specification to support the infrastructure being virtualised costs more than the virtualisation hardware itself why would you go ahead with the exercise unless you had a clear idea how long the payback period would be. The tip is to complete a simple return on investment analysis prior to submitting the business case for funding.

10. Although virtualisation brings many benefits make sure you fully understand that virtualising some applications can be a complex affair. So make sure you prepare fully and use expert advice to understand how to make maximum use of the virtualising technologies.

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