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SDN Journal Authors: Lori MacVittie, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski

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Virtualization: Article

An Application-Driven Approach to Virtualization

Enhance efficiency and reduce operational expenses

Server virtualization has already proven beneficial for many enterprises. Through data center consolidation, server virtualization is able to enhance efficiency and reduce operational expenses. As this technology continues to evolve, however, IT professionals are moving beyond the basic benefits of consolidation. With advanced virtualization technologies, IT organizations can provide a variety of cloud-based services for users. These innovative services are best supported through application-driven virtualization, an approach that dramatically simplifies management and deployment.

Benefits of Application-Driven Virtualization

  • Minimizes operational expenses
  • Improves the efficiency of IT response
  • Accelerates and simplifies the deployment of business-critical workloads and applications
  • Administrators can manage and deploy enterprise application services quickly.
  • Scalable, easy to manage and easy to use.

Virtualization management platforms vary. However, available platforms are able to optimize, configure and manage all components of the application stack. Using such platforms, IT professionals can manage all storage, networks, servers, virtual machines and applications in operation. Because these platforms improve IT's ability to deploy and maintain its enterprise applications, the organization's overall agility and efficiency improves as well.

Virtualization management (VM) platforms also include complementary servers, capable of handling virtual machines and enterprise workloads up to a set maximum. If the organization's needs exceed the server's capabilities, multiple servers can be utilized together. Most platforms group multiple servers into pools. Within each pool, all servers have access to shared storage space. Each VM operates on a single host server, typically assigned according to the availability of resources on each server. If resource availability is compromised, IT can transfer the VM to another server in the same pool. Administrators can also load balance VMs across the pool based to optimize performance and speed.

Complex Tasks
Virtualized application deployment often requires administrators to perform complex tasks that go beyond basic VM management. For example, IT professionals may configure and deploy application software, middleware and databases. If administrators must perform the tasks manually, the process is tedious, expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, some advanced virtualization management platforms simplify this process through the use of templates, which are tested, prebuilt examples of VMs. These VM templates include patches, applications and operating systems. Using a template, administrators can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to deploy an application. Instead of configuring a VM from scratch, administrators can download a template, customize it and import it directly into a server.

After installing a template, many management platforms even allow for customization. Using the customization process, IT departments can create a new, more complex template that contains multiple facets, including databases, application servers and web servers. To create even more complicated template packages, some management platforms allow administrators to create entire assemblies, which are sets of templates with management policies, VMs and configuration information included in the package.

Managing the Virtual Stack
There are many benefits to be gained from a multi-tiered virtual environment. Nonetheless, it also presents significant challenges. Managing such a complex system can sometimes raise operational costs. For example, whereas traditional data centers operate on a single server, a multi-tiered virtual environment requires multiple servers, each of which supports multiple VMs. Furthermore, each VM operates multiple applications, including business software, middleware and databases.

Without a capable management tool, a complex multitier virtual network becomes an administrative burden. For this reason, it's important for developers to choose a platform that includes effective management tools. Using multiple tools for each layer of the infrastructure is too labor intensive and it often requires professionals to have specialized expertise. With a multifunctional management tool, however, IT organizations can manage the entire computing stack using a single tool. Using this management tool, professionals can oversee cloud services, middleware, databases, operating systems, VMs, servers and storage.

Many of these multifunctional management tools include a browser-based, interactive interface that administrators can use to maintain the entire application stack. The interface shows the status of the virtual and physical environment, typically in real-time. These tools also include wizards for typical management tasks to save even more time. In addition, some of these tools include features that administrators can use to manage resources through automatic rebalancing of the server, which improves operational efficiency.

Application-Based Virtualization: The Natural Evolution of IT
Using application-driven virtualization, IT organizations can create a virtual environment that is easy to manage, efficient and cost-effective. As more organizations move toward the use of virtual application stacks, finding effective management tools is imperative in order to control the costs of operation and promote quality. Using templates, administrators can create multiple VMs, applications and databases. Using management programs, administrators can deploy, configure and maintain all facets of the application stack with ease. By choosing a virtualization platform that provides all of these management tools, organizations can ensure that all aspects of virtualization run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

More Stories By Alan McMahon

Alan McMahon works for Dell. He has worked for Dell for the past 13 years and is involved in enterprise solution design across a range of products from servers and storage to virtualization. He now focuses his attention on marketing for Dell. He is based in Ireland and enjoys sailing as a past time.

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