What Are The Common Business Challenges The VMware Sector Faces At This Point In Time?

Rick Blaisdell, CTO, Motus, LLC
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Rick Blaisdell, CTO, Motus, LLC

Going virtual is a hot topic right now, and the trends are constantly shifting. I recently came across a Gartner study which forecasts an increase of 5.7 percent in the server virtualization market, this equates to $5.6 billion in 2016. We all know that the adoption of server virtualization comes with plenty of benefits for your business and it really can improve your efficiency and, above all, your IT resource costs. However, as an experienced CTO, I must admit that virtual environments come with certain challenges and risks.

Licensing

From my point of view, I believe that the biggest challenge the VMware sector is facing is licensing, as they employ several licensing metrics, there are more than one type of license, and I’m talking about licenses per processor, by virtual machines and many options, it might come difficult for a business to manage and optimize all of them. In my opinion, what organizations should do is find and implement a management solution that will help them determine license positions and also minimize license consumption. Ultimately, this will also reduce ongoing software costs and will provide a quicker ROI.

 ​The good news here is that security might be difficult to maintain but not impossible if you follow some simple steps and best practices 

100 percent virtualization

Another challenge I see in VMware sector is reaching 100 percent virtualization, which might be a little bit tricky. I see this more as a goal than an actual accomplishment, as some workloads are difficult to virtualize, such as hardware security modules.

Storage Management

Storage plays a crucial role in the virtual environment and having a thorough storage system is a must. The key challenge here is to have it perform at its best while ensuring that you have enough space for your virtual machines.

Database Management

Hosting your database on a virtual server might be cost-effective, but it also means less visibility and control of your system. The key challenge here is for DBAs to gather only the necessary information from the virtual host layers without interfering with VMware operations.

Monitoring and Reporting

Virtual environments need constant monitoring and supervision. The downside is that this process is not as easy as monitoring traditional physical servers, where it was performed at the guest OS layer. Here, monitoring should be carried out at the virtualization layer, making it a little bit more complicated. As for the statistics, vCenter Server is providing them, but it doesn’t do a good job explaining them to you. Basically, management should be focusing on key statistics, that vCenter provides such as:

• CPU Ready – shows you the amount of time in milliseconds spent waiting for a CPU to become available
• Mem Swapped – The amount of memory that is being swapped to or from a VMs virtual disk swap file by the VMkernel, measured in Kb.
• Disk GAVG – The average amount of time in milliseconds that it takes to process a SCSI command issued by the guest OS.
• Disk Commands – The number of SCSI commands that have been issued.
• Net Usage – The combined transmit and receive rates measured in Kbps.

However, in my opinion, the biggest challenge is, by far, security, which it’s difficult to maintain anyway, not to mention in a virtualized environment. Companies that are migrating towards a VMware environment have sensitive data, financial information, credit cards numbers and other critical information that needs to be secured. The good news here is that security might be difficult to maintain but not impossible if you follow some simple steps and best practices.

Take an inventory of your critical and sensitive data and check which compliance regulations you need to fulfill and which information you need to secure. Whether you process credit cards and you need to encrypt primary accounts numbers and expiration dates. Whether you process healthcare documents and you need to encrypt your patients’ personal information. Encryption is the key. So you should encrypt all your sensitive information and protect your encryption keys with a key management solution.

From my personal experience, encryption is a paramount step in protecting sensitive information, together with a key management solution it’s the perfect team that could keep your data safe in a VMware environment.

Bottom line, use the advantages that virtual environment puts at your disposal and make them work for you. A good example and a great benefit of VMware is it can add layers of automation and security, making it safer.

The virtualization era has begun and we need to adapt our way of working and thinking about it. Let’s see the good part and take the downsides as something from which we can learn and improve ourselves. I sure do that!

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