Virtualizing applications and virtual server migration best practices

Virtualizing applications is great for ROI. With virtual server migrations and virtual appliances, you can recoup your investment even faster.

More organizations are virtualizing applications as a means to reduce costs and increase efficiency. With the advent

of newer, more powerful hypervisors, even tier-one applications are now viable candidates for a virtual server migration.

More on virtualized applications

Resources on VMware virtualized applications

Virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server

Virtual server migration challenges

IT shops that embrace virtualized applications usually see improved hardware utilization, efficiency and disaster recovery operations. Other benefits include easier application testing, development and deployment.

More often than not, the benefits outweigh the risks. But virtualizing applications present some hurdles. For example, some independent software vendors (ISVs) don’t support their server-based applications on virtual servers and some CIOs are reluctant to virtualize mission-critical workloads.

For organizations just beginning to virtualize applications or considering a virtualization expansion, the following articles explain what to consider, including your infrastructure needs, how to prioritize applications and the different methods for virtualizing applications.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Virtualizing applications | Tier-one applications | Virtual appliances | P2V best practices


VIRTUALIZING APPLICATIONS: THE CONSIDERATIONS

Recent improvements in virtual server migration technology have prompted more organizations to run virtualized applications. But not all servers and applications are good virtualization candidates. Before your organization takes the plunge, it’s important to consider hardware requirements, backup strategies and vendor support and licensing.

FAQ: Virtualized applications pros and cons
Virtualizing applications is a relatively straightforward process with clear pros and cons. As server virtualization has matured, many of the pain points and risks have been minimized, such as security and deployment issues. But virtualizing mission-critical and resource-intensive applications still requires special attention.

ISV stall makes virtualizing applications a challenge
Some independent software vendors (ISVs) don't support their server-based applications on virtual servers. This problem, known as ISV stall, reduces the server consolidation, management and business continuity benefits that come from virtualizing applications. Fortunately, there are ways to work with vendors that don't support virtualized applications.

Virtualizing applications and servers: Dos and don'ts
Virtualizing applications and servers allows for more flexibility when allocating resources to VMs and when moving them from host to host. But virtualizing your entire data center can complicate both server and application backups. Adhering to virtualization best practices will help you avoid running into these complications.

Virtual application performance testing: An art form
Performance testing is an essential part of any solid virtualization plan. After prioritizing which applications to virtualize, performance testing lets you see the effects on end users, host compatibility and resource needs for workloads. Ultimately, testing virtual applications and making adjustments will boost performance.

Application support policies hinder virtualization
Application support policies and licensing statements sometimes present the biggest barriers to a virtual server migration. Vendor competition often winds its way into support statements, and IT vendors can also make it cost-prohibitive to run an application on certain hypervisors. Unfortunately, users are caught in the middle of these squabbles.

Virtualized applications: What's your priority?
No hard-and-fast rules exist for which applications to virtualize. But you should carefully consider hardware requirements, vendor licensing policies and resource usage. Prioritizing virtual server migrations based on these criteria will greatly improve the success of your virtualization deployment as a whole.


SERVER MIGRATION BEST PRACTICES: TIER-ONE APPLICATIONS

Today’s hypervisors leverage the CPU, memory and I/O resources that many tier-one applications need. Application vendors are even coming around and offering support for virtual infrastructures, which was once unheard of. But you should not whimsically perform virtual server migrations that involve mission-critical applications. The architectural decisions must be sound, otherwise the performance of these resource-hungry workloads will take a hit.

Virtualizing mission-critical applications
The anxiety surrounding virtualizing mission-critical applications is beginning to wane. Modern server virtualization platforms now offer the performance and reliability that tier-one workloads require. As such, more organization are virtualizing mission-critical applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange Server as well as SAP.

Users wrestle with virtualizing tier-one applications
Following their success virtualizing less-critical applications, more users are focusing their attention on tier-one applications, such as Oracle and SQL Server databases as well as Exchange Server. With mission-critical workloads, however, data protection, high availability and compatibility are major concerns. IT departments also face the challenge of convincing clients to trust tier-one applications in virtual infrastructures.

Virtualization pros get flashy with tier-one apps
Some organizations have run into issues virtualizing tier-one applications because of I/O contention on storage area networks (SANs). In some instances, flash memory storage can provide enough performance for tier-one apps in virtual environments. Though costly, this method may allow admins to purchase less physical servers and storage or avoid shifting mission-critical workloads back to physical servers.

Virtualizing tier-one applications: How to turn cynics into believers
Because virtualization is a radical architectural change in the data center, it faces strong opposition from tier-one application owners. By highlighting all the benefits of virtualizing tier-one applications -- including how nearly all hypervisors are now powerful enough to meet the demands -- you can convince even the most hesitant and stubborn CIOs.


DEPLOYING VIRTUALIZED APPLICATIONS THROUGH VIRTUAL APPLIANCES

Virtual appliances are a quick and easy way to deploy virtualized applications, which is essentially a pre-built virtual machine that houses an application. More IT vendors and developers are distributing software through this medium, as server virtualization adoption has picked up. Though you are limited to how much you can customize the underlying OS, virtual appliances save you time while decreasing complexity and management costs associated with virtualizing applications.

Virtual appliances: The new frontier for application delivery
Deploying an appliance to a virtual host creates a new VM using virtual hardware specifications specified in the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) file. Most virtual appliances use the OVF standard, which vendors aim to use as a method to universally package and distribute virtual machines. Despite this standard, some IT admins still don’t see the advantages of deploying virtual appliances over manually creating virtual machines and installing an operating system and applications.

Virtual appliance FAQ
Virtual appliances take simple application deployment and make it even simpler. As such, they are now an integral part of the virtual infrastructure. Before your organization adopts this method to deploy virtualized applications, however, it is important to understand the benefits, drawbacks, infrastructure effects and creation process.

Evaluating software with virtual appliances
Vendors often have difficulty getting customers to evaluate and install new software. As virtual appliances become more readily available, this application-delivery method makes it easier for customers to try out new products and allows vendors to present their offerings in the best light. With more organizations continually looking to control operational costs, virtual appliances provide a cost-effective way to test and evaluate software.


P2V BEST PRACTICES FOR VIRTUAL SERVER MIGRATIONS

Physical-to-virtual (P2V) migrations are another popular way of virtualizing applications. P2V conversion tools can perform part or all of a migration, but errors and problems associated with the migrations may still arise. To successfully carry out a virtual server migration with P2V tools, you must understand your own infrastructure as well as the processes and tools involved in a conversion.

Understanding virtual server migration: A guide
IT managers can fall prey to the misconception that virtual machine migration is as simple as a few clicks of a mouse. As a matter of fact, the process can be complicated and even introduce new problems. Avoid these migration problems by examining virtual server migration best practices.

Top 5 tips for P2V conversion success
At their core, P2V conversion tools convert an image of the OS, an application and its settings into a virtual hard disk or virtual machine disk file. While today’s P2V tools are mature and most conversions are straightforward, these universal tips will ensure P2V conversion success, regardless of your tool of choice.

Top five P2V conversion roadblocks
P2V conversions are an important, and often necessary, step in a virtual server deployment. But problems can arise, no matter which P2V tool you use. Understanding the common P2V conversion pitfalls -- such as legacy hardware incompatibility and hardware abstraction layer errors -- will prevent unnecessary headaches.

This was first published in February 2012

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