Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Pitfalls of Virtualization - Part 2 Virtual Realities!

So it seems that virtualization's benefits can be quickly negated by an overly zealous accounting department.

Still the benefits are considerable. 

The aforementioned leveraging of hardware resources, reduced power consumption and the ability to allocate resources on the fly are undeniable benefits.  We're not quite at plug and play, however, and virtualized environments introduce their own caveats. 

Take hardware compatibility for example.  It's actually more of an issue with virtual environments than physical.  Remember we're dealing with layers of abstraction between your operating system and the hardware. Since virtualization vendors know their product can end up on everything from a re-purposed desktop to server class hardware they know better than to t try to support every configuration.  That means you're likely to be on your own if your chosen platform isn't on their compatibility list.

If your chosen virtual platform doesn't know how to talk to your SAN adapter, for example,  you're at a standstill if it's not on the compatibility list.  Nothing like trolling forums for support while your Fortune 500 company waits.   The same can be said for physical servers but a virtual host usually serves more than one virtual machine which just added an unwanted exponent to your headache. 

It takes some time to figure out the nuances of managing a virtualized environment as well.  Keeping in mind that everything you're seeing is largely an artificial construct and not necessarily reality has found more than one administrator scratching his head.

Ignore that fact at your own peril as It's far too easy to over commit a virtual resource and suddenly find alarms because you've overtaxed your processor and evaporated your storage.   Oh yeah, and all those angry voicemails on your phone.

That brings up another annoyance, licensing.  

While VMWARE, for example, will allow you to have a fully functional virtual host ready to accept as many virtual machines as you can throw at it for free, scaling that up to enterprise level can be an exercise in futility. 

Just like Microsoft, figuring out what you need is never straightforward and usually involves engaging a consultant unless you like to pay for things you don't need.  I've yet to walk into a VMware shop that had the right licensing mostly because the IT director decided to just wing it.  Unfortunately that route usually means the loss of much of the functionality virtualization offers. 

Just for fun, I went online searching for licensing packs for VMware and found a dozen vendors selling 100 concurrent user licenses for $25000.  They all had the exact same description which told me nothing about the product aside from how much better my life would be should I make the purchase.  It makes me miss the days of shrink-wrapped software.  Back then, I didn't need a 5 figure consultant just to figure out how to spend my money!

It seems the more user friendly things get the more money I have to pay someone to explain it to me.

We wrap it up in Part 3

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