Today’s organizations are achieving many benefits from using virtual computing resources, including increased flexibility, scalability, and accessibility. The adoption of the cloud as an addition to legacy systems has changed the way many companies use IT resources, allowing them to scale quickly and efficiently to meet fast-changing business needs. These hybrid solutions, where companies retain some on-premise functions while moving much of their data and processes to the cloud, are more common than ever. Along with the benefits of using the cloud, however, come significant challenges for the IT organization in terms of managing and monitoring systems.
When pairing legacy infrastructures with cloud computing environments, data center operators and IT organizations run into difficulties when the hardware-based environment (employing older technologies) takes a “bottom up” approach to policies and the cloud environment takes a “top down,” application-centric approach. In this scenario, delivery of services can be interrupted, quality of service can suffer, and utilization rates can drop significantly.
Another challenge comes into play when the same management principles are applied to both physical hardware and virtual machines (VMs), resulting in inefficient sprawl. The phenomenon of “virtual machine sprawl” is a costly but hidden problem; the actual limits of VMs can’t readily be seen, unlike an on-premise site that obviously runs out of physical space. When idle and unused VM sprawl occurs, storage and network resource consumption can easily grow to an excessive level well before it is noticed, at a time when costs are unfortunately too late to rein in.
While virtualization can help shrink costs by the increased density of servers that it provides, a virtual environment can often be pricey too. Cloud resources are indeed finite, and if not managed properly, they can require unexpected increased spending. Users often forget that if they don’t “turn off” or spin down the virtual machine after they are done using it, the machine is still running and resources are needlessly being consumed.
Moving into the cloud environment requires a revised cloud infrastructure plan, one that puts smart management of IT resources squarely at the center of the business strategy. How can you keep business processes moving smoothly, reacting efficiently, and evolving cost effectively in a hybrid cloud environment? Here are three tips:
- Limit access. Limit the number of people that have access to and the ability to create VMs to reduce the risk of Shadow IT. This simple step channels formal requests regarding VMs to select people with approval powers. With this procedure in place, IT staff must carefully consider if the request is truly needed, rather than hastily completing it with just a few clicks.
- Allocate wisely. Allocate a designated amount of virtual resources to different departments using resource pools. VM creation is better controlled if you actively limit the resources available per host.
- Monitor usage. It is vital to closely monitor VM lifecycles to spin usage up and down quickly, which saves money and better utilizes computing resources.
Granted, the manual management of computing resources to accomplish the above tips takes a considerable amount of time. But today there are a variety of sophisticated solutions, such as workload automation, that help create guidelines for both virtual and physical machines. Workload automation allows organizations to take an architectural approach to cloud resource management by building a comprehensive framework that provides greater governance of and control over all of an organization’s virtual and cloud assets. As a result, organizations can better meet SLAs, reduce costs associated with manual management, and greatly increase IT agility.
About the Author/Jim Manias
Jim Manias is Vice President at Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc. and is responsible for the overall market strategy and planning for a range of products including ActiveBatch® Workload Automation and Job Scheduling. Jim has been with Advanced Systems Concepts since 1991 and has held multiple senior management positions in the enterprise software and hardware market. Jim can be reached at JManias@advsyscon.com.