Many versions of VMware have come and gone since my first rendezvous with server virtualization in year 2000. Since things have changed quite substantially (and I’ve been out of touch in the practical side of things) on the virtual server front, I recently decided to try out how server virtualization solutions treat the not-so-initiated users.
Sun VirtualBox promised to be a good option for my testing environments. It was a breeze to install, and even easier to manage when it came to rolling virtual machines. One thing led to another, and before I realized it, I had 10 virtual machines (Servers and clients included). Since all the operating systems involved were of the free OS variety, it wasn’t really a big worry for my IT team as yet. But it did lead me to wonder about “virtual server sprawl”, as the more experienced practitioners call it.
The easiness with which virtual machines can be rolled out will be a serious concern, if IT teams neglect the need to keep track of this aspect. Virtual servers can be cloned in a matter of minutes, so there’s the possibility of a forgotten server running somewhere. Add to this the fact that rollout of most virtual servers don’t require an approval as such in many Indian organizations.
This brings a couple of concerns to the forefront:
• Software licensing concerns
• Possible misuse of these virtual machines
• Waste of storage resources, since these servers might be allotted storage. Some might also be getting backed up for no reason.
• Security concerns, since these servers will be missing critical patches
• Resource wastage
• Server management issues in the future
The primary measure to control such an occurrence is to treat the process of a virtual server’s rollout the same way as you would treat a physical server going live. This will bring in effective checks and balances to ensure that virtual server rollouts are managed in a much more responsible manner. According criticality also ensures that virtual machines get included in IT audits, thus making their control easier. Although virtualization management tools are available now, the policy is still likely to be more effective than technology when it comes to curbing virtual server sprawl. Such practices will ensure that you don’t have to spend on a massive “virtual server consolidation” project some years down the line.
PS: My 10 virtual machines have been decommissioned.