Welcome!

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Post

Quit Stalling: Overcoming the Barriers to Virtualization Deployments

Establishing four key areas of virtualization management

There is a well-known and outstanding promise of virtualization, that it can and does deliver significant IT and business benefits, including:

  • Substantial ROI: In hardware consolidation, power, rent, cooling, downtime, etc.
  • Greater agility: With fast IT support for business innovation, transformation, etc.
  • Improved continuity: Through hardware redundancy, site recovery, live migration, etc.
  • And many other business values

However, with more and more data coming through showing enterprises struggling to accelerate conversion and maturity of virtualization deployments, it is clear that "outstanding" in this context carries a dual meaning - not just in the sense of fantastic outcomes, but also undelivered outcomes.

The Facts Don't Lie - Or Do They?
Actually, the raw figures for virtualization adoption can be very misleading. Every survey and study shows clearly that 75%, 85%, or even 95% of organizations are adopting server virtualization; more and more we see that these same high proportions are deploying virtualization for production applications; and we see the volume of new servers and new applications utilizing virtualization breaking well past the 50% range.

However, these stats do not tell the whole story.

What's missing is how and why virtualization deployments are actually stalling within a majority of enterprises. Typically as a virtualization deployment reaches around 30-40% of servers, IT is unable to scale up with the resources and processes that got them to that point. As a result, a virtualization deployment slows down or stops altogether. This is called "virtual stall" - the inability to overcome the "tipping points" needed to move the needle on virtualization maturity.

I have cited data throughout 2010 that shows this - such as the CDW Server Virtualization Life Cycle Report that showed only 34% of total server infrastructure consists of virtual servers; or the Forrester Research from May this year (conducted for CA) that showed just 30% of servers on average are virtualized.

Virtual Stall - Fact or Fiction
Even so, many people cannot believe that virtual stall exists.

The outstanding promise (and to be fair, the substantial success) of virtualization puts blinkers on even the most assiduous observers. They see deployments happening, and assume virtual stall is just representative of a point in time on the virtualization journey, and that we are moving the needle every day. They see organizations that are 60%, 70%, or even 80% virtual and assume that virtual stall is really just a myth. They see organizations in different geographies and assume that virtual stall is just a U.S. concern. They see virtual stall as entirely avoidable, "simply" by applying the right preparation and planning.

Unfortunately, the truth is that most organizations are not overcoming virtual stall; most organizations are stuck at much lower rates of virtualization; virtual stall does affect organizations from around the world; and organizations cannot (at the very least do not) always overcome it simply with better plans.

The proof is in how consistent the indicators are.

Here Come the Facts
For example, the CDW-G 2010 Government Virtualization Report in July 2010 showed that an average of just 40% of total government infrastructure consists of virtual servers. Research conducted in Europe by leading industry analyst Kuppinger Cole in November 2010 shows that only 34% of organizations have deployed server virtualization for more than 50% of their systems. A new study by Cisco released in December 2010 polled organizations in the United States, Europe and India, and two-thirds of respondents said that less than half of their environment is virtualized. Even a CA Technologies survey conducted at the November 2010 Gartner ITxpo conference in Europe - a sophisticated audience of mostly large enterprises with access to good planning advice, which one would expect to show much greater virtualization maturity - still showed over half of the attendee respondents are less than 50% virtualized.

What Causes Virtual Stall?
The causes are legion, and often hard to overcome, but they are not all difficult to identify. Some key reasons include:

  • Costs: Of new hardware (yes, virtualization often needs new hardware - servers, storage, support), or virtualization licenses (even though many are looking at free alternatives to VMware), OS and application licenses (see next bullet), staff resourcing and training, and more.
  • Vendor licensing: Oracle is often cited for not certifying its products on non-Oracle virtualization platforms, but others like Microsoft and many smaller vendors are also guilty.
  • Staffing: Staff with virtualization certifications cost more to start with; but more importantly, virtualization resources cannot scale to manage two, three, or four times the VMs, and still apply the higher-level skills needed to virtualize more complex and mission-critical applications.
  • Business resistance: This is proven to be an issue time and again, where business owners do not allow IT to virtualize ‘their' application, and resist any changes that could end up sharing ‘their' server with other departments.
  • Security and compliance: IT staff may dismiss business owners' fear over virtualization security and compliance, but issues do exist in specific new threats (e.g. blue pill, red pill) and more mundane vulnerabilities (poor functional isolation, privileged user access, auditability, etc.).
  • Poor visibility: As virtualization gets more complex, it becomes increasingly hard to locate servers, detect problems, isolate faults, diagnose causes, or determine remediation, because virtual servers are by definition abstracted, and both add and hide a layer of complexity.
  • Increased dynamics: Virtualization allows extreme workload mobility, but this is also a threat, as rapid motion introduces its own problems (security of collocation, lack of isolation, problem isolation challenges, migration loops, etc.) and additional complexity.
  • Tool sophistication: As virtualization gets more broadly deployed, you cannot just use the same old tools, as they lack virtualization-specific information and capabilities; IT must start to grapple with a lot more manual activity, or swap out their management tools.
  • Silos of control: In a physical world the old silos of control (servers, storage, networking, etc.) worked, if not well, then acceptably; in a virtual world, these barriers are broken down, so in addition to LOB politics, IT has to grapple with internal politics, and providing appropriate skills.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Other issues include facilities constraints, lack of insight into available capacity, existing "VM sprawl," poor suitability of some applications, lack of support for internally developed applications, added complexity of heterogeneous environments, high utilization of some existing servers, and poor management processes.

How to Solve - or Avoid - Virtual Stall
Certainly there are no silver bullets. However, some solutions are easy to identify, even though they may not always be easy to implement. Four key areas that IT needs to address include:

  • Visibility: IT must implement technologies and processes to provide visibility into the whole environment (systems, applications, middleware, hosts, guests, networks, storage, etc.). This includes integrated capabilities for deep discovery and inventory recording, application and system dependency mapping, resource capacity and utilization recording, identification of workloads and users, detection of configuration settings and drift, and detecting data leaking and data loss. This will help to achieve (and prove) security, compliance, capacity, availability, response, and SLA objectives by allowing IT to align performance, security, resources, and compliance with business policy, and enable more streamlined operations activity (e.g., problem triage and response) even in a more dynamic environment, to provide line of business confidence and reduce costs.
  • Control: Beyond seeing the environment and its problems, IT must take control with new technologies and processes to govern virtual environments. This should include capabilities that are integrated and broadly accessible across IT silos, to manage replication, migration, and continuity; to restrict access for privileged users; to reduce or eliminate the "rogue" VM deployments that lead to VM sprawl; to continuously manage provisioning, capacity, performance, and configuration; and to control allocation of resources (facilities, servers, storage, software, licenses, etc.) according to business policy. This helps to reduce IT staff skill requirements and costs, diminish the impact of IT silos, manage rapid migrations more effectively, and provide sufficient controls to convince business owners to expand tier 1 applications.
  • Assurance: To truly provide guarantees to business owners, IT needs to provide assurance that service performance will meet response, continuity, security, compliance, audit, experience, and uptime SLAs. Solutions can do this by providing rich visibility into end-to-end infrastructure and application performance, including traffic and response times; by tracking events, tracing incidents, identifying symptoms, and isolating root causes; and above all, by executing rapid remediation actions in real time to not just correct problems but to prevent them. This is going to build more trust from business owners, by meeting (and even exceeding) their compliance, satisfaction, performance, and approval goals, while also reducing staff costs (on triage etc.).
  • Automation: To address staffing issues, plus a host of compliance, audit, error reduction, and other challenges, IT must look to automate more mundane tasks, connect "known good tasks" into repeatable processes, and execute "known good processes" automatically too. Automating processes for provisioning/deprovisioning, configuration detection, patch and lifecycle remediation, monitoring and alerting, problem tracking and remediation, and end-user self-service will reduce the skill burden on highly trained staff, provide built-in documentation even for complex processes, allow junior and less-trained staff to do more complex work, reduce or eliminate human errors, and add security through functional isolation and process auditability.

The Bottom Line
Enhancing your virtualization management maturity by implementing these technologies and processes will help to eliminate virtual stall. Solutions with support for virtual, physical, cloud, server, network, storage, application and security needs; across multiple heterogeneous virtualization platforms, technologies, and vendors; solving specific issues today, but still scalable to extend and leverage investment into a strategic solution; will help to overcome the virtualization "tipping points" that lead to virtual stall.

Of course, some elements are simply beyond IT's direct control (e.g., vendor licensing), while others are not even a question of technology (e.g., poor existing processes). Moreover, virtualization maturity is not just a question of how many VMs you have, or what your server-to-VM ration is - virtualization maturity is also a question of how well you use the VMs you have, how sophisticated the virtualization deployment is, and more.

Nevertheless, by establishing these four key areas of virtualization management - visibility, control, assurance, and automation - most organizations will in a much better position to beat virtual stall, and deliver on the true outstanding promise of virtualization.


CA Technologies provides solutions that deliver virtualization visibility, control, assurance, and automation. For more information on please visit http://ca.com/virtualization.

More Stories By Andi Mann

Andi Mann is vice president of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies. With more than 20 years’ experience across four continents, he has deep expertise of enterprise software on cloud, mainframe, midrange, server and desktop systems. He has worked within IT departments for governments and corporations, from small businesses to global multi-nationals; with several large enterprise software vendors; and as a leading industry analyst advising enterprises, governments, and IT vendors – from startups to the worlds’ largest companies. Andi is a co-author of the popular handbook, ‘Visible Ops – Private Cloud’; he blogs at ‘Andi Mann – Übergeek’ (http://pleasediscuss.com/andimann), and tweets as @AndiMann.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
Blockchain. A day doesn’t seem to go by without seeing articles and discussions about the technology. According to PwC executive Seamus Cushley, approximately $1.4B has been invested in blockchain just last year. In Gartner’s recent hype cycle for emerging technologies, blockchain is approaching the peak. It is considered by Gartner as one of the ‘Key platform-enabling technologies to track.’ While there is a lot of ‘hype vs reality’ discussions going on, there is no arguing that blockchain is b...
As Marc Andreessen says software is eating the world. Everything is rapidly moving toward being software-defined – from our phones and cars through our washing machines to the datacenter. However, there are larger challenges when implementing software defined on a larger scale - when building software defined infrastructure. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Boyan Ivanov, CEO of StorPool, provided some practical insights on what, how and why when implementing "software-defined" in the datacent...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
ChatOps is an emerging topic that has led to the wide availability of integrations between group chat and various other tools/platforms. Currently, HipChat is an extremely powerful collaboration platform due to the various ChatOps integrations that are available. However, DevOps automation can involve orchestration and complex workflows. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Himanshu Chhetri, CTO at Addteq, will cover practical examples and use cases such as self-provisioning infra...
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
The need for greater agility and scalability necessitated the digital transformation in the form of following equation: monolithic to microservices to serverless architecture (FaaS). To keep up with the cut-throat competition, the organisations need to update their technology stack to make software development their differentiating factor. Thus microservices architecture emerged as a potential method to provide development teams with greater flexibility and other advantages, such as the abili...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
The use of containers by developers -- and now increasingly IT operators -- has grown from infatuation to deep and abiding love. But as with any long-term affair, the honeymoon soon leads to needing to live well together ... and maybe even getting some relationship help along the way. And so it goes with container orchestration and automation solutions, which are rapidly emerging as the means to maintain the bliss between rapid container adoption and broad container use among multiple cloud host...
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across business networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation's open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Are you curious about how Blockchain is built for business? In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, discussed the b...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
The cloud era has reached the stage where it is no longer a question of whether a company should migrate, but when. Enterprises have embraced the outsourcing of where their various applications are stored and who manages them, saving significant investment along the way. Plus, the cloud has become a defining competitive edge. Companies that fail to successfully adapt risk failure. The media, of course, continues to extol the virtues of the cloud, including how easy it is to get there. Migrating...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...