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Infrastructure change management and performance monitoring

There are numerous virtualization challenges that can make virtualizing your infrastructure a hindrance rather than a help. We’ve learned how capacity planning and resource provisioning are a source of problems, but when done properly, can improve your virtualization strategy. Another main challenge is performance monitoring. But with

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performance monitoring tools and infrastructure change management, you’ll keep your system optimized and well-documented.

Virtual machine performance monitoring and optimization

Administrators eventually need to know just how well their servers are performing. Virtual machine performance monitoring is especially important in a virtual setting where hardware use can be significantly higher than in nonvirtualized systems.

A firm grasp of system performance details can offer early warnings of system problems that impair availability. Virtual machine performance details can also help administrators identify changes in usage patterns and balance workloads to optimize system utilization.

In actual practice, performance monitoring in a virtual setting uses many of the same techniques found in nonvirtualized environments. The central issue is to use suitable performance monitoring tools in the first place.

“We don’t deploy any solution without some level of monitoring engine to go along with it,” said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies LLC, a technology provider in Fairfax, Va.

A principal issue with performance monitoring is to verify that the results are accurate. Because performance monitoring tools will typically report on only the VM on which they are loaded, administrators may need to aggregate test results from each VM individually and then combine the results manually to achieve a more complete picture of virtual machine performance.

Infrastructure change management

Infrastructure change management is another key element of system monitoring. Virtual data centers should control the entire lifecycle of each VM from its creation through retirement. Any changes within the IT environment must occur in a well-organized manner that is thoroughly documented.

The biggest problem in infrastructure change management is a lack of underlying the process -- someone simply makes a change, nobody really knows what was changed or why, and before long the documentation no longer matches the actual system configuration. Poor infrastructure change management processes can complicate otherwise simple upgrades and make troubleshooting almost impossible.

In a virtual environment, perhaps the most notable weakness for infrastructure change management has to do with VM management. New VMs can be rolled out in a matter of minutes. That may sound like a benefit -- and it can be -- but without careful infrastructure change management policies, VMs can quickly proliferate across a data center in a phenomenon known as VM sprawl

Because every VM demands resources, unmanaged VM proliferation can drain valuable computing resources unexpectedly, leaving mission-critical VMs without adequate resources. That, in turn, triggers capital expenditures for more servers and storage that might otherwise be unnecessary.

With proper virtual machine performance monitoring and infrastructure change management, you can keep your VMs running smoothly, optimally and with up-to-date configuration documentation.

Stephen J. Bigelow, a senior technology writer in the Data Center and Virtualization Media Group at TechTarget Inc., has more than 15 years of technical writing experience in the PC/technology industry. He holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, along with CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ and Server+ certifications, and has written hundreds of articles and more than 15 feature books on computer troubleshooting, including Bigelow’s PC Hardware Desk Reference and Bigelow’s PC Hardware Annoyances. Contact him at sbigelow@techtarget.com.

This was first published in January 2011

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