But really — when are you going to clean up that mess in your virtual environment and optimize it? Almost every agency with more than a few hundred virtual machines has problems with low VM density, over-allocation, zombie VMs and unused resources. Those problems lead to poor optimization and increased opex/capex. We’ve worked with public sector IT managers and virtualization administrators long enough to know the main obstacles you face to optimizing your virtual environment:

  • Resources. As long as most things are running more or less OK, VM optimization is tomorrow’s fire. Fighting it takes precious time, money and bodies away from fighting today’s fires.
  • Processes. Most of the tasks involved in optimizing virtual machines include first determining where the waste lies and then taking corrective action. These tasks – whether it be something as simple as deleting a VM that is no longer needed or correctly sizing CPU, memory and storage to make optimal use of the IT resources— are still behind the automation eight ball. They are manual and therefore time-consuming processes.
  • Tools. Too many monitoring tools and not enough integration among them mean that it can take a long time to isolate problems. That is especially true if you’re using multiple hypervisors.

Quest contracted with a leading provider of government market research to assess the VM landscape of 150 respondents in federal agencies. We’ve published an infographic and white paper based on the results. It turns out that almost all federal agencies surveyed (86 percent) use at least two hypervisors, and many use five or more — products like ESXi, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM, Oracle VM, PowerVM and RHEV.

Now, I know there’s a lot of sharp IT talent in federal agencies, but with five or more hypervisors, how could you NOT have a mess in your virtual environment?

Optimizing the virtual environment

From there, the survey determined the biggest things about their virtual environments that keep these respondents up at night: performance monitoring, VM sprawl and managing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), to name a few. They all roll up into the problem of optimizing virtual infrastructure, and I’ll go beyond the scope of the infographic to highlight some of the questions and issues.

  1. What is your VM density? High VM density delivers the promise of virtualization.  Higher density indicates more cost effective IT. Low VM density sabotages opex and contributes to spiraling costs to support virtualized infrastructure. Total number of VMs ÷ total number of servers = VM density— which we have seen grow, on average, from 10:1 to 20:1 and higher.
  2. How much wasted disk space do you have? If you’ve over-allocated virtual files, abandoned templates or powered off VMs and never powered them back up, then you’re wasting disk space. Remember that disk space is cheap except when you need it and don’t have it.
  3. How many zombie VMs do you have? “Frank powered up that VM and it’s still running, but is anyone using it?” “I don’t know. Does Frank still work here anymore?” Zombie VMs don’t harm your environment, but you should tear them down to free up resources. If you can find them.
  4. How do you maintain SLAs and identify virtual performance problems? Spotting little problems in a VM before they become big problems should be part of your management processes. We believe that the optimal VM-to-admin ratio is 300:1, but at that ratio, if you’re trying to optimize your environment without intelligent analytics and automation, all the processes in the world won’t help you meet your SLAs.
  5. How can you tell in advance that a physical machine is running out of resources? It’s hard to grow your virtualization effort if you suddenly start running out of CPU, memory and/or storage. You can’t plan accurately for hardware acquisitions if you don’t have an eye on the status of both physical and virtual machines.

Next steps

So, to get back to cleaning up that mess in your virtual environment and optimizing it, you still need to deal with resources, processes, tools (Oh my!).

Besides working on the answers to the five questions above, take a look at the infographic “Virtual Monitoring Tools — Holistically Managing the Virtual Environment.” It will give you an idea of how your counterparts in other public sector organizations view their own VM environments.

While you’re there, you can also check out the white paper we used as a source for the infographic, for more insight into hypervisor and VM.


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