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Top 10 virtualization strategies of 2019

As virtualization technology continues to advance, admins must use different strategies to manage their complex data centers, such as vCenter maps, hybrid cloud and more.

2019 has seen a vast amount of new innovations and strategies in the ever-evolving field of virtualization. From cost-saving techniques and multi-hypervisor management strategies to hybrid cloud practices and VM-container integration, virtualization admins now have a wide collection of strategies to help guide them into a new year of IT.

As Windows Server 2008 end of life draws near, data centers become more complex and cyber threats loom on the horizon, admins must be ready to tackle any new IT challenges that come their way. Review our top ten virtualization strategies of 2019 to ensure successful data center and virtual environment operations.

1.     Virtualization cost-saving strategies

IT administrators responsible for maintaining a virtualization infrastructure must budget carefully and take into consideration several cost-saving strategies. One of the most cost-effective virtualization strategies is reviewing licenses to remove or update wasted licenses, such as subscriptions for overlapping tools, to reduce costs.

In addition, admins should consider increasing the density of host VMs. When admins increase VM density, they don't have to purchase new servers to accommodate additional workloads. Increasing VM density also reduces licensing costs, and admins can enable dynamic memory to ensure their systems use a host VM's existing memory efficiently.

2.     Better manage multi-hypervisor environments

Multi-hypervisor environments provide admins with benefits such as reduced licensing costs and flexibility, but managing a multi-hypervisor environment can be challenging. To lessen the complexity of multi-hypervisor management, admins can execute several management strategies, such as carefully choosing multi-hypervisor management tools, learning how to work with several tools simultaneously and implementing security practices and training.

With these strategies, admins can successfully lessen the complexity of multi-hypervisor management as well as balance overall data center costs. By keeping tools and procedures flexible, admins can adjust their processes as they move between different workloads.

3.     Use vCenter maps to keep track of virtual environment components

VMware's vCenter maps enable admins to keep track of their VMs, hosts, data stores, networks and other virtual environment components and understand how they relate to each other. To use vCenter maps, admins must log in to their vCenter Server using the vSphere Client.

Once there, admins can click on any object in the inventory and select the Maps tab, which then provides an interface to customize information displayed on the map. Within this section, admins can discover a vast amount of information, such as VM location and relationships between VMs, to help reduce the complexity of locating and managing virtual environment components.

4.     Decide between a micro VM, container or full VM

The decision to use a full VM, container or micro VM isn't as easy as some might assume, because these technologies can coexist within the same data center as well as on the same server. To make the choice easier, admins must consider the ideal use cases for each technology.

VMs are better suited for traditional, monolithic workloads that require a complete and independent server. In contrast, containers focus on scalability and workload mobility and work best for newer software design architectures that don't require an extensive security presence. Micro VMs benefit some admins because they have a container architecture that retains many of the benefits of VMs, such as security, isolation and VM creation. Admins often use micro VMs if they require additional isolation as well as independent OSes.

5.     Ensure Hyper-V security with a few strategies

To ensure Hyper-V security, admins must use specific security techniques, such as traffic isolation, shielded VMs, Generation 2 VMs and the Secure Boot feature. Admins shouldn't enable some forms of traffic to traverse their user networks. Rather, they should isolate traffic through a dedicated physical or virtual network segment whenever they can.

In addition, admins can take advantage of shielded and Generation 2 VMs to increase Hyper-V security. Shielded VMs help protect against rogue admins, while Generation 2 VMs are hypervisor-aware and run more efficiently.

Generation 2 VMs also provide security advantages, such as the Secure Boot feature. Secure Boot can prevent malicious code from initializing during a PC's boot cycle and ensures admins' devices use only trusted software.

6.     Ensure system health with vSphere monitoring tools

VMware's vSphere platform provides numerous tools, such as the vSphere Client and Web Client, to monitor vSphere systems and access performance metrics, real-time data usage information, system health data, tracked events and alarms. Admins who monitor their environments can also keep track of historical data throughout the system and manage their storage base.

In addition, the vSphere platform provides utilities for monitoring system components, such as the esxtop and resxtop command-line utilities to reveal real-time ESXi resource usage. These tools provide critical information regarding admins' data centers, which can help prevent system failures and ensure efficient performance.

7.     Integrate VMs and containers for enhanced benefits

Integrating VMs and containers within the same system enables admins to improve resource utilization, enhance management and maintain a flexible environment for workloads. But integration of these two technologies isn't always easy, and admins must consider a few practices prior to integration. For example, admins can run containers within VMs because a VM uses its own OS, which can then support a container engine.

But admins shouldn't deploy a VM in a container because VMs are large, resource-intensive entities. Deploying a VM within a container eliminates the flexibility and mobility admins require from containers. Rather, admins can use tools such as KubeVirt, Rancher VM and Virtlet to take advantage of both container and VM benefits by enabling VMs to work alongside containers on the same interface.

8.     Use hybrid cloud strategies to bridge the on-premises, public cloud gap

The scalability and flexibility of the public cloud has drawn many admins to its computing platform, but some organizations continue to run their workloads on premises. In specific instances, admins might want to extend their on-premises data centers to the public cloud or vice versa. In this case, admins should explore hybrid cloud strategies such as multi-hypervisors, software-defined data centers (SDDC) or products such as Azure Stack, Outposts and Kubernetes.

Several vendors, such as VMware Nutanix and Microsoft, offer products and platforms that seek to simplify admins' migration journeys and enable them to bridge the gap between on-premises workloads and the public cloud.

9.     Avoid SDDC security risks to better protect your data

An SDDC provides admins with storage and network abstraction with the help of highly automated software. An SDDC also provides admins with a private cloud to better control hosted data. Though an SDDC offers several benefits to admins' virtual environments, it can present possible security risks. One of the main security risks with an SDDC is product compatibility issues, which can lead to lack of a directory service.

In addition, admins might feel tempted to bypass certificate authentication and security and forgo updating security policies and procedures. Admins must fulfill these steps; otherwise, malicious attacks and data breaches might befall their data centers.

10.  Prepare for the Windows Server 2008 end of life

 The end of support for Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 comes as 2019 nears its end. On January 14, 2020, admins must find a new option to run their Windows Server 2008 VMs, because Microsoft no longer provides security updates. However, admins can take the Windows Server 2008 end of life in stride.

First, admins must back up their VMs prior to acting. This ensures that admins don't lose critical information and enables them to rehearse necessary upgrades in a sandbox environment. Once this is complete, admins can migrate their VMs to the Azure cloud. But if admins must keep their VMs on premises, they should upgrade to a newer OS. 

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