Three secrets to VM lifecycle management

Just because a virtual machine can run forever, doesn't mean it should. VM lifecycle management can help determine when it's time to retire a VM.

Once you've made the switch to virtualization, it's important to adapt to the new management options. Although there are some similarities in managing virtual and physical infrastructures, there are plenty of differences. Having a plan and using virtual machine lifecycle management tools can help you keep your virtual environment running smoothly.

Q: What is VM lifecycle management?

Lifecycle management for virtual machines is much different than lifecycle management in a physical IT infrastructure. While you're used to handling your strictly physical infrastructure one way, there are different strategies when it comes to virtual servers.

Physical infrastructure lifecycle management is a somewhat simple process. You put the machine in a rack, install the hypervisor and add it to your resource pool. Once it's done, you can retire it. For virtual machines, the process can be much more complex, starting with the four stages of its lifecycle: planning, preparation, production and retirement.

The stages are similar to that of a physical deployment but the difference is timing. Set up for physical hardware could take weeks, while the deployment of a virtual server could take just minutes. It's also important to note that the final stage -- retiring -- still applies to virtual machines, even though they seem like they can run forever.

Q: Why create VM expiration dates?

While hardware is often replaced, virtual machines can be overlooked. Just because they aren't physically damaged or you can't see the problems doesn't mean they can't be harmful to your environment when they run longer than they should.

VM lifecycle management is key in figuring out when a virtual machine should be replaced. Since the hardware and operating system are often changed or upgraded, the VM is forced to adapt to multiple versions. In that sense, it's rare that all of the versions will have the same security, monitoring tools or asset management software.

Having a firm VM lifecycle management policy is one way of making sure that VMs don't live forever and drag you down. For example, you could set a limit on how many operating system upgrades there can be before the VM is replaced.

Q: Why do I need lifecycle management tools and what’s available?

If you have virtual machines in your environment, it's key to have a set of processes to help administrators oversee them. From the implementation to the delivery to the operation and maintenance, lifecycle management is key.

Taking inventory of virtual machines can make a big difference in keeping your environment organized and running properly. For logging, keeping track of the license number, patch level, time of installation and usage restrictions can help in the long run. There are many options when it comes to lifecycle management tools.

VMware, Citrix, Scalable Software Ltd, VDIworks and Virtual Computer offer some of the best lifecycle management tools.

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