With today's limited budgets, data centre administra-tors are looking for ways to increase hardware utilisation, power savings, availability and scalability.
Virtualising individual servers can accomplish all of these things, yet those advantages represent just a fraction of virtualisation's potential. Expanding virtualisation to the network by moving virtual machines (VMs) between physical servers – while applications run – provides capacity when and where it is needed without adding expensive and underutilised platforms. What's more, dynamic VM creation and movement lets administrators respond quickly to new requests, increasing user productivity and customer satisfaction.
Until recently, many data centre administrators hesitated to take advantage of mobile VMs because of the time demands of managing related networking requirements.
Now automated solutions can safely create and move virtual machines, freeing network administrators from those responsibilities and bringing the full potential of virtualisation technology to even resource-strapped data centres.
It's morning on a typical work day. Employees are logging into their systems and customers are accessing websites. Very quickly, the demand for server resources grows from minimal to extensive. Using network virtualisation, VMs that have been consolidated on a few servers overnight can migrate to additional machines that are newly powered up to meet capacity requirements. Users are unaware of this movement; they simply take advantage of a high-performing environment with ready access to business applications located throughout the data centre. At the end of the day, when demand is lower, the VMs migrate back to a few servers, easing management and reducing power costs.
Daily VM migration is just one practical application of mobile VM technology. Moving VMs also makes sense at the end of a fiscal quarter when financial applications require more processing power or when a business launches a new service that generates extensive website activity. VMs can also be moved to support business continuity when servers are taken off-line for maintenance or in the case of a disaster. The examples are almost limitless, and the benefits are enormous. To take advantage of these benefits, administrators must perform some network-related activities. The network management requirements associated with moving VMs between hardware platforms are not tremendously complex, but they are critically important and can be time-consuming.
As VMs move around the data centre, the network-level policies associated with each VM must move with them. These policies govern factors such as security and Quality of Service (QoS), and differ based on the users and applications.
Maintaining appropriate network policies for every business application is critical to operations. Finance and human resource departments must have very strict security policies to protect sensitive corporate and personnel data.
The solution to taking advantage of network virtualisation without overwhelming administrators is automating the network management tasks associated with VM movement. Tools that automate a limited set of virtual infrastructure management tasks commonly lack the network awareness needed to unleash the full potential of dynamic VM deployment for business. Solutions that automate the network aspects of virtualisation are now available. Automating network setting migration reduces the risk of an application outage due to a misconfigured network, as well as the security risk of exposing a sensitive application to unauthorised users.
- The writer is Vice-President of Blade Network Technologies. The views expressed are his own
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