There is a lot of hype around all types of virtualization today, with one of the primary drivers often cited being a reduction in management costs. I was pondering whether or not that hype was true, given the amount of work that goes into setting up not only the virtual image, but the infrastructure necessary to properly deliver the images and the applications they contain.

We've been using imaging technology for a long time, especially in lab and testing environments. It made sense then because a lot of work goes into setting up a server and the applications running on it before it's "imaged' for rapid deployment use. Virtual images that run inside virtualization servers like VMWare brought not just the ability to rapidly deploy a new server and its associated applications, but the ability to do so in near real-time.

But it's not the virtualization of the operating system that really offers a huge return on investment, it's the virtualization of the applications that are packaged up in a virtual image that offers the most benefits. While there's certainly a lot of work that goes into deploying a server OS - the actual installation, configuration, patching, more patching, and licensing - there's even more work that goes into deploying an application simply because they can be ... fussy. So once you have a server and application configured and ready to deploy, it certainly makes sense that you'd want to "capture" it so that it can be rapidly deployed in the future.

talktothehand Without the proper infrastructure, however, the benefits can be drastically reduced. Four questions immediately come to mind that require some answers:

Where will the images be stored?

How will you manage the applications running on deployed virtual images?

What about updates and patches to not only the server OS but the applications themselves?

What about changes to your infrastructure?

The savings realized by reducing the management and administrative costs of building, testing, and deploying an application in a virtual environment can be negated by a simple change to your infrastructure, or the need to upgrade/patch the application or operating system. Because the image is a basically a snapshot, that snapshot needs to change as the environment in which it runs changes. And the environment means more than just the server OS, it means the network, application, and delivery infrastructure.

Addressing the complexity involved in such an environment requires an intelligent, flexible infrastructure that supports virtualization. And not just OS virtualization, but other forms of virtualization such as server virtualization and storage or file virtualization. There's a lot more to virtualization than just setting up a VMWare server, creating some images and slapping each other on the back for a job well done. If your infrastructure isn't ready to support a virtualized environment then you've simply shifted the costs - and responsibility - associated with deploying servers and applications to someone else and, in many cases, several someone elses.

If you haven't considered how you're going to deliver the applications on those virtual images then you're in danger of simply shifting the costs of delivering applications elsewhere. Without a solid infrastructure that can support the dynamic environment created by virtual imaging the benefits you think you're getting quickly diminish as other groups are suddenly working overtime to configure and manage the rest of the infrastructure necessary to deliver those images and applications to servers and users.

We often talk about silos in terms of network and applications' groups; but virtualization has the potential to create yet another silo, and that silo may be taller and more costly than anyone has yet considered.

Virtualization has many benefits to you and your organization. Consider carefully whether you're infrastructure is prepared to support virtualization or risk discovering that implementing a virtualized solution is creating an SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) field around delivering and managing those images.


Follow me on Twitter View Lori's profile on SlideShare AddThis Feed Button Bookmark and Share