We've started using virtual machines in an effort to reduce the number of servers in our data center. Because virtual machines (VMs) are easy to move, we are running into change management issues. Are there automated change management tools we can use? What are good practices for documenting or limiting permissions for changes?
You ask a good question about a very common problem. Yes, several change management tools are available, all with significant dependence on what is a very important topic within IT right now: Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL. From a tools perspective, OpsWare and BladeLogic have integrated some VM elements to them quite nicely; however, the process and policy needs to be in place within an organization to understand changes and the impact of any changes to the environment. Defining who can do what and when is an important first step. Make sure your ruleset in disaster recovery (DR) or the tool that is moving the VMs is populated with the policies or at least the governors in place to prohibit movement. For example, don't move a VM for a 24/7 application to an 8/5 maintained server. Also, anticipating the impact of any potential changes would be another good practice.
This was first published in April 2008