What new virtualization features do you want?

New virtualization features keep getting more advanced, but there’s always room to improve. Our advisory board members share their wish lists.

New virtualization features are always coming out. Remember when live migration was the cool new thing? Or memory overcommit?

Vendors are constantly developing new virtualization features for their hypervisors and management tools. VMware vSphere 5, for example, is expected to introduce Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler, host-based replication and network I/O control. And future releases will offer a service-level agreement framework and long-distance vMotion capabilities.

But these new virtualization features don’t cover everything on IT admins’ wish lists. There’s always room for more improvements aimed at making virtual infrastructure management easier. Members of our Server Virtualization Advisory Board share their ideas as they answer this month’s question:

What new virtualization features would you like to see in future releases?

Rob McShinsky, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center

With the availability of VMware’s memory overcommit and Microsoft’s Dynamic Memory, the cost challenges of storage for server virtualization loom even greater. With the amount of physical storage necessary to house and maximize I/O, it can be daunting trying to achieve the highest I/O for the lowest cost. In my experience, it has been very hard to achieve this balance for virtualized workloads in production.

The feature I would like to see mature a little faster is a hypervisor-integrated deduplicated storage option. Deduplicated backup options have hit their stride, but deduplicated block-level storage is still not widespread among mainstream SAN providers (and even less with the high, random-I/O workloads that virtualization brings.) The maximization of I/O control with a deduplicated storage system would reduce storage allocation and allow for greater cost savings for private and public cloud implementations.

C.J. Metz, First American

The greatest need I have seen is in terms of integrated workflow management. I see a large gap in the ability to receive requests for servers, provisioning, lifecycle tracking, and ultimately chargeback. There are some tools that have been developed, but I don’t believe that they are at the level we really need.

In my enterprise infrastructure, we deal with many different business units, all with unique customer information about cost centers, contacts, approvers, SLAs and service fees, just to name a few. I would like the ability to retain all these static data points and apply them to different workflows, with direct integration with the virtual platform.

From a technical standpoint, there should be simple, platform-specific tools for the customer to specify what they need. These options would include CPU, memory, disk and everything else necessary to configure the server to spec. I envision a one-stop shop where a customer can request a VM and all pertinent data is sent to the appropriate parties via a tightly integrated application.

Shannon Snowden, New Age Technologies

Since the functional features from each of the vendors seem to fit a great deal of the use cases now, my wishes are more on the client side. I’d like to see a Mac client for vCenter and a fully functional Web-based management tool as well. On the VMware Communities forum, there has been a petition since 2008 for the Mac client. And the Web client is probably just a wish that won’t be fulfilled given the complexity of the client at this point.

As virtual infrastructures get more cloud-centric, being able to manage then from anywhere on any device is critical for stability and administrative flexibility. VMware now has an iPad client, which is a very basic tool that looks to use repackaged information from the Web interface. I don’t expect that this would be the primary support tool for daily administration any time soon, but hopefully it is a step in the right direction.

Dave Sobel, Evolve Technologies

Requesting features is like a Christmas wish list: You hope you’ll get what you want as a present under the tree. As virtualization has become a part of the core infrastructure, it cannot be considered a standalone technology. Beyond specific additions to the hypervisor, my desire is for future virtualization platforms to extend further into the IT infrastructure. Cloud computing, for example, is enabled by virtualization, and managing cloud, virtualized and physical infrastructures from a single pane of glass will be a critical success driver.

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