Case Study

Hardware compatibility issues lead to virtualization problems

By Stephen J. Bigelow, Senior Technology Writer

Virtualization offers tremendous potential and the promise of greater business efficiency, but sometimes things like hardware compatibility issues can get in the way.

Consider the case of a small wine importer located in northern Virginia. With only a single server hosting two virtual machines, you'd think there wouldn't be any virtualization problems. Not so, said Dave Sobel, CEO of

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Evolve Technologies, a solutions provider in Fairfax, Va.

Why compatibility issues happen
Shortly after a successful deployment, hardware compatibility issues emerged, Sobel said. His client discovered that the previous backup process -- relying on USB drives -- no longer functioned as expected. The client assumed certain things about hardware compatibility that, because of the virtualization layer, was no longer possible, Sobel said.

Because of an oversight in communication, the client still chose to continue its existing USB backup practice in parallel with a new remote replication scheme that had been deployed successfully.

"There was a real disconnect between the way they wanted to use their USB disks and the backup that they had in mind, with the reality of the virtualization technology," Sobel said.

Hardware compatibility issues: The big picture
Hardware incompatibility issues are among the most common virtualization problems. Even though virtualization does a good job of abstracting workloads from the underlying hardware, any software that is hardware-dependent can lead to virtualization problems.

Sobel corrected the problem using readily available FabulaTech USB-over-network software, allowing his client to connect the USB drive to a network server and make it available to the network. Today, the client is using both USB and virtual replication to protect its business data.

Sobel said this experience was a simple but important cautionary tale for any VAR: No virtualization project should be started without clear communication and a clear definition of the client's requirements.

"The piece we got tripped up on was the fact that we had not fully explored the requirements of the customer," he said. "We didn't ask: 'Are you going to plug a USB disk into this?'"


This was first published in October 2010

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