Hardware for virtualization: A new approach for the private cloud

Your hardware strategy for virtualization will have to change with the times. Consider a modular hardware approach to maximize your investment.

As virtualization moves toward the private cloud, hardware will also have to evolve.Soon, when you talk about hardware for virtualization, you won't mean traditional servers and storage. You'll mean units of processing and units of storage -- what I like to call modular hardware.

Virtualization's early promises meant we could abstract the operating system from the hardware. As a result, many infrastructures use virtualization hardware that's been harvested from the pre-virtualization world.

As virtualization evolves, though, constructing private clouds with old virtualization hardware becomes more of a risk than an advantage. That's because the law of supply and demand now applies to virtual resources.

Hardware for virtualization by the numbers

You probably already think of resource assignment in terms of quantitative numbers. You might allocate 2,400 MHz of processing power and 2.5 GB of memory to one VM, for example. If the VM isn't using many of its resources, you redistribute them to other machines.

VMware memory overcommit and Hyper-V Dynamic Memory even offer dynamic memory allocation, which supplies memory to VMs on an as-needed basis.

Those numbers are all on the demand side of virtual resources -- the resources that your host and VMs require. But what many admins haven't yet considered are the quantitative values that we can apply to the supply side.

For example, instead of saying, "I'm going to buy a blade enclosure," you might say, "I need 121,440 MHz of processing power and 768 GB of memory."

Getting organized with modular hardware

Most of us haven't yet reached the mind-set where we purchase units of processing and units of memory based on what our VMs demand. Many admins buy hardware for virtualization based on a gut feeling or just add hardware when it feels right.

Modular hardware allows admins to focus instead on resource demand. You can simply purchase units of processing power, memory, storage and so on from hardware vendors in measurable amounts. They're attributable to actual VM demands.

And most important, you can plan for demand in much greater detail. For example, monitoring tools can alert you when hardware is at its maximum capacity and suggest a specific amount of resources to add.

The modular hardware philosophy is coming. Many of its components are already in place. If you're in the market for a virtual infrastructure or private cloud, or if you're augmenting the one you already have, consider the modular hardware approach to maximize your investments.

About the author:
Greg Shields is an independent author, instructor, Microsoft MVP and IT consultant based in Denver. He is a co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC and has nearly 15 years of experience in IT architecture and enterprise administration. Shields specializes in Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. He is the author of several books, including Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed, available from Sapien Press.

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