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Why did your virtualization implementation stall?

Your virtualization implementation can grid to a halt without the proper planning and support. Luckily, there are ways to overcome these hurdles and get back on track.

As organizations get deeper into their server virtualization implementations, many run into common stumbling blocks.

Some application owners run from virtualization. Some vendors still bury their heads in the sand and won't support virtualization. And some workloads prove too difficult to virtualize.

This phenomenon -- when your virtualization implementation seems to hit a brick wall -- has come to be known as "virtualization stall" or "VM stall."

Stall can strike at any time, and it can even occur multiple times throughout your virtualization implementation. (In my experience, virtualization stall usually hits first when an organization reaches the 30%-virtualized mark.) Many factors can contribute to this phenomenon, and I will address a few of the most common below.

No virtualization implementation planning
"If you don't know where you are going, that is where you will end up."

When it comes to virtualization, that saying often rings true. When you began deploying virtualization, where did you set your goal? Is your virtualization project further along than planned?

It is vital that you determine in advance how far your organization wants to go with virtualization. Each organization must define that goal to meet its own unique needs. Once that goal is set, you must measure your progress regularly and not let the daily grind steal your focus.

No support for your virtualization implementation
A lack of support from within an organization can also contribute to virtualization stall.

Many virtualization efforts began and grew organically, within small groups of the IT department. As the technology matured, it gained momentum and became an integral part of the IT infrastructure.

This bottom-up approach was great for early adoption, but top-down support is a vital piece of any large-scale virtualization deployment. When the CTO is on board with the project, a lot of bumps tend to smooth themselves out.

VM sprawl
Virtual machine (VM) sprawl is a very common contributor to virtualization stall as well.

Virtualization stall does not necessarily mean that VM creation has stopped. It means that an organization has stopped making progress toward the goal of virtualizing its physical servers. You can rapidly provision new VMs without virtualizing any physical servers. In fact, this uncontrolled growth could be consuming the physical resources necessary to convert more physical server workloads to VMs.

If you have encountered stall, it may be time to revisit your goals and your strategy for your virtualization implementation. Make sure all parties are working toward a common, clearly defined strategy, and that upper management is providing the necessary guidance and vision. And finally, guard your resources. They're not free, and the success of your project depends on how well you manage them.

About the expert
Mark Vaughn (MBA, VCP, vExpert, BEA-CA) is a consulting principal for data center virtualization with INX, a Houston-based solutions provider. Vaughn has more than 14 years of experience in IT as a Unix administrator, developer, Web hosting administrator, IT manager and enterprise architect. For several years he has focused on using the benefits of virtualization to consolidate data centers, reduce total cost of ownership, and implement policies for high availability and disaster recovery. Vaughn is a recipient of the vExpert award for both 2009 and 2010, and he has delivered several presentations at VMworld and BEAWorld conferences in the U.S. and Europe. Read his blog at

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