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Inherit and manage a virtualization environment with these strategies

Stepping into a management role when it comes to a newly inherited virtualization environment can be a challenge, but with the right approach, you can ease the transition.

At some point in your career, you'll most likely inherit a virtualization environment that wasn't managed as well as it could have been. Familiarizing yourself with the environment and addressing any issues takes time, but it doesn't have to be a painful process.

A new virtualization environment can't be held up to the same standards or expectations as your previous environment, because someone else built it to meet the specific needs -- such as budget and growth -- of a company. As such, you should look at your new environment as its own entity and try not to compare it to your previous one.

Begin by taking a solid inventory of what you have. It helps to gather a list of hardware and software versions for your hosts so you can find them on maintenance schedules and hardware compatibility lists. You can't make updates or recommend changes without knowing what the system supports and how to maintain it. Once you have a handle on the hosts, gather your information on networking and guest OSes.

When you inherit and manage a virtualization environment, be cognizant that during this process, storage can pose a challenge. In many environments, unique storage software is installed to address ad hoc issues, anything from separating page files from VMs to using local storage. Key tools, such as RVTools, can help you pull comprehensive lists of where your VMs live so you know what you're doing when you work with them.

Look into established rules and processes

You can't make updates or recommend changes without knowing what the system supports and how to maintain it.

Once you understand the inventory and status of your software programs, you can look at what types of rules and processes are in place, from Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and high-availability rules to affinity rules. If you don't have ready documentation to explain why these rules and processes were put in place, you must create one.

Be conscious of the fact that you might lack some understanding. Any DRS rule that seeks to separate or keep workloads together has no meaning if you don't understand the core of the workloads themselves. You can use the notes section in each VM to form a better understanding.

Oftentimes, virtualization environments that have existed for a long time have some unique shortcuts for many reasons, and budget plays a part in that. Once you understand what was done in your new environment, you can work to keep the lights on and prevent outages.

Start making small changes for the better

You'll most likely want to make changes as you inherit and manage a virtualization environment. The information you've gathered can help you build that case, but be aware that developing a new environment from the old one won't happen overnight. Rip-and-replace isn't possible for most environments; you must take into account both budget and downtime. It helps to create a bullet list of concerns and determine the priority of each matter based on effort, potential affect and cost. This enables you to highlight possible changes for management in a nonjudgmental way.

Oftentimes bringing issues forward can be a little jarring for management. You should present this as a way to move the infrastructure forward and support the next few years of needs and service. People get used to certain virtualization environment issues. Your role is to help change that, but you should handle complaints with consideration for previous relationships and managers. Use growth as your main point and avoid looking backward.

This was last published in May 2019

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