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The Trouble with Virtualization - Cranky IT Staffs

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the p-e-b-k-a-c dept.

IT 251

lgmac writes "A new survey on the results of Enterprise use of virtualization shows that the process is seeing wide and appreciative use. Technical hurdles are obviously the biggest problem facing corporate IT shops. Just the same, political squabbles among IT staffers fighting for turf after being forced to work together in new ways seems to be a going concern as well. 'Technical woes rank higher--to be expected when CIOs deploy a new technology such as virtualization. However, the politics pain many of you. Remember, virtualization not only asks people to cede some control over their physical server kingdoms, but also asks IT experts from different realms to work more closely together.'"

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Virtualization is overrated (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899030)

A similar solution was deployed where I worked and it failed miserably. I don't have the exact costs but it was in the 6 digits. There's a good account of the political problems involved with virtualization here:

34% on desktops? (3, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899036)

34% of surveyed companies have been running virtualized desktops? Putting aside that that number doesn't seem to square with the "Virtual Desktops a Hard Sell" table below, does that seem likely?!?

Re:34% on desktops? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899230)

This stat is obviously wrong: []


Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899436)

It's a spam troll.

Re:34% on desktops? (2, Funny)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899408)

As with many articles in that rag...the points it seems to make are all on the boss's hair. I am sure my lack of understanding comes from my lack of righ-sized, value added, synergy.

Re:34% on desktops? (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899476)


Re:34% on desktops? (5, Funny)

OnlineAlias (828288) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899618)

On a go forward basis, you need step up to the plate and reach out to someone to get your thought processes in alignment. Perhaps a little thinking outside the box or brainstorming session would help to get someone to take ownership of this problem. Anyway, thanks for running this up the flagpole but lets take this conversation offline. I'll touch base with you later to discuss some of these basic action items.....

Re:34% on desktops? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900206)

could they be including Citrix? A lot of companies, especially with international branches use it or something like it for basic desktop apps "i.e." Surpass, Utterance, Entry, and other similarly named products. I wouldn't necessarily call it "virtualization" technology, but you know how those business types can be.

Nothing to see here, move along (1)

mrslacker (1122161) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899056)

Unfortunately, the story really doesn't say anything of value. Just lots of filler, and an excuse to throw ads at you. Next, please.

Re:Nothing to see here, move along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900208)

You should be marked insightful for:

Unfortunately, the story really doesn't say anything of value. Just lots of filler, and an excuse to throw ads at you. Next, please.

CIO magazine is dumbed downed for the 10 CIO/directors/managers each of one us technical types have.

Excess Servers=Excess Staff (1)

dokebi (624663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899062)

Who would have thought consolidating servers would require less staff? If your company is thinking about doing Virtualization, make sure you are in charge of what remains of the pie!

Re:Excess Servers=Excess Staff (1)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899202)

I think that if you have the ability to reduce staff once you convert to virtual servers, you had too big of a staff to begin with. Whether you have 5 physical machines, or 1 physical with 5 virtuals, you still have 5 servers providing services, and you should have the appropriate number of staff members for that many servers.

Companies are using virtualization as an excuse to do the kind of reorganization they should have done a couple of years ago. But, yes, make sure you're in charge of what pie remains. :\

The C student effect (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899650)

An effect I've noticed many times is that when you ask IT staff to vote, the windows IT staff always outnumber the Unix and mac It staff. Thus one man one vote favors the windows firedrill fix-it jockeys over the more talented kernel of Unix and mac support gurus. Yes I realize that's ripe for flamebait, but it's actually true. By and large windows has so many problems to keep functioning it lakes a large staff of low paid trained monkies on hand. The revenge of the c-strudents is that they out number the A-students who run the linux servers.

Re:The C student effect (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899968)

You don't make a good case for Unix admins being smarter, because your post is profoundly stupid. There are tons of talented Windows IT guys out there, and, while it's unfortunate that you don't know any, that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Backup problems (3, Interesting)

r0BOT (1211902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899090)

My companies biggest problem concerning virtualization at this point has been backing up running copies of virtual server without interruption, anyone have some insight on this?

Re:Backup problems (2, Informative)

PowerEdge (648673) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899148)

Depends on the virtualization solution. Vmware has a product called Vmware consolidated backup. You can also load agents on the vms just like a physical server and back them up. You could also use things like mirroring and snapshotting to back them up at the storage layer. We used a combination of all 3 at my previous employ. Really depended on the virtualized box, what needed backing up, how often, etc.

Re:Backup problems (1)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899154)

Don't overlook the low tech method of just running a backup client in the VM. Separately, make use SAN snapshots, and backup of those.

Re:Backup problems (1)

Mitch Haile (822543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899190)

I'm very curious if you can elaborate on this (what virtualization software, what kinds of problems, what backup software).

Re:Backup problems (3, Informative)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899196)

On the VMware side, there's several options. VMware's Consolidated Backup [] does exactly this. Also you can look at ESX Ranger [] .

Can you afford 5 minutes of downtime? (3, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899236)

If you can afford 5 minutes of downtime you can solve the problem by:

  • Use a host OS that has some type of shadow-copy mechanism.
  • Suspending the VM and spooling the memory out to a disk file. This should take a few minutes at most.
  • Shadow-copy all files that are normally used by the VM. This should take less than a minute.
  • Ressurrect your VM
  • Back up the image and all associated files including the associated memory spool file.

It may be more practical to back up the system from within the VM, i.e. treat it as if it weren't a VM. By definition this will be on a live system.

Another option:

Have your VM use a checkpoint disk. Once a day shut down the VM, merge the changes from this week into the checkpoint disk, and restart the VM. This may take anywhere from a few minutes to tens of minutes. Restart the VM. Back up the checkpoint-disk image.

Re:Backup problems (1)

r0BOT (1211902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899242)

The software solution for virtualization is Microsoft Virtual Server. There is 3 servers virtualized right now including, SQL / ConnectWise / Kaseya servers. From what i have found there isn't a tool to backup running virtual server images with Microsoft Virtual Server, even if you take a VSS snapshot of the VHD file you are still missing the running change file which is not available until the server is in a paused state from my understanding.

Re:Backup problems (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899682)

Do you see performance loss on the virtualized SQL db ? Are they actively used db's ? I see many people taking huge performance hits as well.

I run 60 servers and there are 15 mysql servers on Solaris that I can't virtualize , even running Sun version of Xen I take huge performance losses when moved into production. I ended up just using 12 as read dbs and 3 as writes that replicate down to solve the problem but also had to move them off virtualization.

Re:Backup problems (1)

Scr4tchFury (1211936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899866)

You basically have to treat your VMs like they are each individual servers and back them up accordingly. I highly recommend Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server Edition. []

It works with any type of server but fits better in the virtualization environment.

Re:Backup problems (1)

gallwapa (909389) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900154)

el-cheapo solution for vmware (should work for windows) an works because there is no users (and no sla!)

shut down vms at x time.
cp -R vmachines (someserverthatdoesatapebackup)

then we've got nightly disk to disk and tape backups too :p

cost of agents? $0. Disk space was our biggest concern.

Re:Backup problems (2, Insightful)

jojo1835 (470854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900404)

That will teach you to run Microsoft's 5 year old technology in a production environment. Use VMware ESX or XEN. Either one will give you the results you need.


Re:Backup problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900000)

Snapshot the system, then back the server up like you would any other server daily. The underlying system rarely changes, just the data on it. No reason to shut server down for "normal" backups.

EG, we have a virtualized db server. We back up the databases like any other db server, then rsync the backup to a different system on a different drive array where it gets written to tape.

We have a copy of this system in the template library, and on tape. If you adjust any system files you need to re-snapshot the machine and back it up again. The rest of the time, on a daily basis, you should just dump a copy of the database to tape.

Ideally you'd have an entire hot spare system (which you keep up to date) with the same VM's on it.

On a virtualized file server you'd back up the user directories to tape. The server would stay running during this. The toughest part is connecting the tape drive to the VM...

Test your backups... That's all I'll say about it. I have to say bare metal restores are hella easier with VM's, as long as you have them backed up somewhere.

It's funny because I'm setting up DR right now on our VM systems (and testing the hell out of the backups).


Re:Backup problems (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900116)

If you're running on Xen using Linux Volume Manager (LVM) logical volumes as your virtual block devices, you can just snapshot the logical volumes (LVs). If you have more than one LV for a given virtual machine, then you can do:

  1. Suspend the VM
  2. Make snapshots of the LVs
  3. Resume the VM
  4. Backup the snapshots
  5. Delete the snapshots

Can't we all just get along? (4, Interesting)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899112)

Technology is continually changing. Those who adapt will be the most successful. Those who don't will eventually be pushed aside. Fighting over turf won't get you far in a corporate environment in the long term.

Re:Can't we all just get along? (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899382)

Fighting over turf won't get you far in a corporate environment in the long term.
Nor will complacency and ceding to other's demands. Best to stick with social engineering and make people that want "your" turf to think it was their idea to move elsewhere :)

Re:Can't we all just get along? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899478)

Fighting over turf won't get you far in a corporate environment in the long term.

Wrong. In most corporate environments, that is precisely how you get ahead. Playing "nice" ensures that you will always be the underling. Why? Because you are so easy to get along with, anyone can task and work with you. This can and does keep people from getting promoted.

If you want it, you better fight for it. If you don't, it will be taken away by someone else who did. End of story.

Re:Can't we all just get along? (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899486)

Technology is continually changing. Those who adapt will be the most successful.

And one of these days someone will teach this lesson to the RIAA right? Or is it that when things work a certain way and do so correctly (Like an AS400 Machine) they are reluctant to change and disrupt production.

Re:Can't we all just get along? (1)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899510)

This is nothing new. The same nonsense occurs in the "converged" world where VoIP and data mesh. You have the Cisco-tards who want to rip out and replace an entire PBX infrastructure because they think it will protect their turf if they move to Cisco's Call Mangler platform, even though it's an entirely different set of challenges. On the other side are old timer PBX folks who refuse to learn anything new.

From my experience however, it's relatively easier for a voice person to get quickly up to speed regarding data than it is for a data person to learn voice.

Re:Can't we all just get along? (1)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900262)

I was actually going to post the exact same thing, though in my mind it's MUCH harder to get teams to work well together in a VoIP implementation, just because of the completely different worlds the teams come from. A lot of traditional telecom engineers are having a real tough time adapting right now, as their industry is getting thrust into world that they know very little about. People from the Data world are having challenges with VoIP, too. However, the telecom world is moving in their direction, whereas it's moving away from the PBX guys.

Virtualization planning is just an extension of the work that's been going on for years between network, storage and server engineers. It's just a little more detailed, and requires more forethought.

sounds well and good (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899648)

but the reality is that if you're not responsible for something important, even mission critical, then you just let someone paint a layoff target on your back. that's the political reality of many companies. It's easier to fight to keep what you have than it is to expect that someone will give you something good to manage after you give up control over what you have right now. Virtualization is actually a poor example of the cross functional integration in many companies, since it's squabbling within the IT department. Try implementing an ERP system (with IT, Finance, and Sales fighting over ownership).

Re:sounds well and good (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899858)

But what's important or mission critical today might not be tomorrow. Rather than fighting to keep what you have it's better to adapt to other technologies and become a leader there. I'm not saying to sit back and relax, but move as the environment changes.

Re:sounds well and good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900142)

Sounds like you've never worked in a the real world. Let me guess, academia?

as a systems engineer (5, Interesting)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899124)

In my experience as a systems engineer, the biggest problem we've had with virtualization is that too many people who don't understand it well view it as a magic wand that you can wave to make all your capacity & provisioning problems disappear.

"Hey! We need a new server to run Blah version 3.0!"
"No problem! Sammy can create a new virtual server!"
"Oh wait - my bad. We actually need a whole farm."
"That's okay, he can whip up a whole batch of them!"

Ad nauseaum. About the worst I've heard was a clueless manager asking me if the resource requirements for Oracle 10g could be relaxed because we were running it on VMware. I actually found myself calling a "come to Jesus" meeting in which I explained, in as simple terms as I could, that "making the system virtual" doesn't mean that hardware requirements go away. Very, very few applications get faster when you put them on equivalent hardware, only virtualized.

Re:as a systems engineer (4, Informative)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899292)

*facepalm* I sometimes forget how stupid people can be.

Personally, what I've found to work great with virtualization is consolidating all the dozens of little low-load servers. It helps with power consumption and heat output, as well as hardware costs. For a major company-wide high-load system, virtualization is absolutely not what I would be looking at. It's also fantastic for testing environments.

Re:as a systems engineer (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899656)

Are you crazy, man! Every DNS, NTP, and DHCP server out there needs it's own quad core with 8GB RAM! Our departmental wiki needs a whole load balanced cluster.

Re:as a systems engineer (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899806)

Sadly I used to work with a guy who thought this way. It's almost like he used the number of servers he managed as a way to measure the size of his peni...intelligence.

Re:as a systems engineer (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899676)

Virtualization actually sucks for testing environments. It allows for
management to engage in more of that "virtual servers are like magic
fairy dust" nonsense and skimp on real physical resources. By divorcing
them from the problem of having Sun ship them another physical server,
management gets even further out of touch with operational problems.

Test systems are bound to be underpowered anyways. Aggregating a number
of them together just means that someone can hammer one of the virtual
machines and bring them all to their knees.

It's not a magic bullet to be casually trifled with.

Re:as a systems engineer (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899984)

More importantly, Virtual Machines can actually hamper your testing depending on what you're doing. If you need precise (or even semi-precise) timing then a VMware box is a bad idea since their clocks tend to drift at an alarming rate and you have little control over at least one of the schedulers affecting your process.

Of course sometimes you gotta make due. When your product is large and complex and only written for Linux, and the only thing you have to test with is a loaded down old creaky and underpowered windows laptop running a bunch of software with no Linux equivalent, then you just gotta suck it up and factor in the uncertainty in your tests.

Re:as a systems engineer (1)

Robert The Coward (21406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900156)

I think he was refering to more along the lines of running Windows 98, 2000, 2k3, XP, XP SP1, XPSP2 with IE6, XP SP2 with IE7 etc. For testing not a testing server that runs web apps.


Re:as a systems engineer (2, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899906)

For a major company-wide high-load system, virtualization is absolutely not what I would be looking at
It can be, when the goal is not to run faster or cheaper, but when the goal is the ability to recover from a disaster quickly. Restarting a virtual server on a different VMWare host somewhere far away from the earthquake/fire/whatever-drama is a heck of a lot easier then having to rebuild the physical environment.

Re:as a systems engineer (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900252)

. For a major company-wide high-load system, virtualization is absolutely not what I would be looking at. It's also fantastic for testing environments.


A while back I worked at a very large IT consultancy. We were being asked to respond to an RFP for virtualizing (using commodity hardware and VMware) a truly massive number of systems, running services ranging from a departmental CVS box to enterprise Sun hardware running "several million lines" of Java code systems for fine tuning corporate promotions.

No, I have no idea why the application was that large, either.

But the kicker was when we made our requests for additional information. We were supplied with a list of applications/services, and a list of servers on which they ran. When we asked them to actually relate the one to each other, they told us that we didn't need that information in order to do our estimates. I mean, really, the conversation was very like this:

"We want you to virtualize this system. How much will it cost?"
"Okay... um, what are the hardware specifications?"
"You don't need to know that."

Eventually, I found out that the hardware vendor was grumpy because they thought our cost estimate (I use the term loosely) was too high. I responded that they could put down whatever they wanted as long as they kept my name off it. And they did. Fortunately, I got out before we had the chance to win or lose that contract. (Eventually, they lost - which is a good thing, because if they'd won it, they would have been inviting the client to saddle up and ride hard.)

Re: Testing Environments (1)

lullabud (679893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900272)

What I've found to be a pain is when people start running testing environments with like 7 servers in bridge mode with static IP#'s in the DHCP pool because they don't know any better. Then IT trouble tickets come in asking why people are getting IP conflicts and interrupted SSH connections to SVN servers while no IT trouble-tickets come in from QA as their invalid network configuration changes are distracting them entirely with test results that are randomly terrible and they just can't seem to figure out why.

Just as with physical machine deployment, virtual machines have to be planned. As long as that is taken care of things seem to be OK. At least in my experience.

Re:as a systems engineer (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899500)

I owe you a beer. And you owe me a new keyboard =) It is now very Mountain Dewy.

Re:as a systems engineer (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899740)

There are pros and cons to virtualization.

You can build a beefy SAN and have the vm's directly access luns on the SAN, so no virtualization of disk I/O. If the vm gets corrupted or the physical server it is running on fails, it can very quickly start running on a seperate server or blade. With a traditional approach, you might be reaching for backup tapes, swapping drives over into a spare chassis, or worst case reloading an O/S while everyone wonders what is going on. Virtualization gives you some very interesting options for disaster recovery.

VM's can share excess resources that normally are totally wasted on traditional server farms. I have worked at several fortune 100/500 companies and I have done capacity planning for cpu and disk resources. Servers are usually very bursty with periods of high demand, followed by long periods of idleness. Obviously this depends on production demand, type of server and when jobs are run, etc etc. Regardless, a lot of CPU power is just spending time in NOOP's. With a virtual environment you can run a lot more vm's on the same physical hardware but the hard part is to predict demand and make sure that the vm's will have the cpu resources when they need them. With a little tuning and monitoring, you can usually find this balance.

I can sit here and write for hours the pros and cons, but I think anyone that has truly used this in production use is aware of these. Most of the people I see that are "against it" are people afraid of change and don't truly understand the technology. BTW, I am not saying that ALL servers should be virtualized! Nobody every said you have to run everything on a virtual server cluster. You can run a mixed environment with your heaviest of applications running on dedicated hardware.

The biggest problem I have seen with virtualization is trying to get enough RAM into the server to adequately utilize the cpu resources available and to get software vendors to "support" their products when running in this environment (many have disclaimers to say they wont support virtualization, but this will change in time or they will go out of business). Another problem is that it is really expen$$ive if you want to go with the best of the breed solution (ESX Server) just for the virtualization software itself. Two Dell 1855R chassis with 10 blades each, a capable SAN and VMware ESX/VMotion is a beautiful thing!

Another approach is to make your physical servers do MORE tasks than they did before to ensure they are utilizing CPU resources. So do more with less physical servers. There are a lot of cons with this approach and most traditional IT staff would prefer to just rack a new server for each new project rather than trying to shoe-horn applications onto existing production servers and potentially disrupt them.

It works for me (1)

badran (973386) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899172)

virtualization is a blessing, for me at least. In the past I had to run a couple of servers at home to do my work. But now, I have an ubuntu Host, and I run everything from there, clients, servers, everything . That saves a lot of hardware headaches and backup problems, all it take it to copy a couple of file.. It was a tad tricky to setup, but when it was up everything was running great. With todays cheap Storage, RAM and Processing power, this is truly a blessing.

I'd imagine... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899184)

I'd imagine that one of the big problems with virtualization is clueless IT managers/staff who don't understand that you basically are dividing a server down into sub-servers. I've encountered a few people who seem to think that virtualization multiplies the server resources. That is, everyone using a VM basically gets the full specs of the host machine--all at once! Ugh! Maroons!

Re:I'd imagine... (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899446)

Actually, they do. In 10mS chunks, for compute-bound tasks - YMMV.

Re:I'd imagine... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899692)

Actually, they don't. They do get the whole CPU for 10 ms, but the memory, swap, and disk are still shared among all the virtual subsystems. I'm not sure how devices are handled, but if the virtualization software allows them to continue handling requests started by one virtual machine while another takes its time slice on the CPU, they may not get control of those, either.

Re:I'd imagine... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899702)

Not so for Memory and Disks, which are where the dumb managers come in.

Does this come as a surprise? (5, Insightful)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899214)

My company works with several shops that are working on large-scale virtualization and common platform projects. I would say the biggest single issue is simply politics, because much of the initial work is affecting older platforms that are the biggest win technically and financially to replace. For instance, one shop has a significant investment in Alpha systems, and still has production servers that are 15+ years old running a huge chunk of their revenue producing systems. The folks working directly on the Alpha servers have considerable clout, since they've been the golden children for many, many years. Their bosses know how to play politics, and, considering that Alpha/VMS experience is one of those IT areas where there is little new blood from younger IT staff members, they are quite adept at finding reasons why it won't work to serve their own ends.

Not only that, but virtualization will result in lost jobs at some point. Many IT staffers are afraid, whether rightly or wrongly, of losing their jobs. In a sense, they are outsourcing a good chunk of their day-to-day duties. I remember when this particular company went to SAN's over the last half-decade, and you would have thought, from the way the Alpha guys were fighting it, that the world was ending. They created road-block after road-block about how they wouldn't be able to keep the systems running, how it wouldn't work in "their" environment, etc, etc.

And, because of the compartmentalization that often occurs in large enterprise, many of these guys have very little idea about anything outside their own box. I know guys who have architected corporate platform migrations who are so narrow in their focus that they have *NO* experience outside their box, be it a particular OS, a server type, a network type, whatever. When the box becomes a cloud of equipment, they are lost and often have little or no ability to work with the other layers involved. Learning new troubleshooting skills in these environments is a painstaking process, and not one that many people are comfortable with.

In the end, these various factors are creating far larger artificial roadblocks for implementing virtualization than any technical challenges. To top it off, much of this is being driven by financials. The CFO and CTO are desparately trying to find ways to cut costs. By the time this message percolates down to the workers, they feel threatened rather than empowered, and have little incentive (and generally no training, either) to be complicit in what they feel is a threat.


Re:Does this come as a surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899578)

When the box becomes a cloud of equipment, they are lost and often have little or no ability to work with the other layers involved. Learning new troubleshooting skills in these environments is a painstaking process, and not one that many people are comfortable with.
Which brings up one item often lacking in the budget for major virtualization projects: training.

Re:Does this come as a surprise? (1)

Curlsman (1041022) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899596)

If the Alpha/VMS team used the early virtualization technology in already there, even without what DEC/Compaq called "Galaxy", they could easily say that they are using virtulization and make their boss look good, or at least better...

But on a larger scale, what I've seen is a lot of the non-technical bosses reacting a project plan where several "Boxes" become "One Box" on a floor plan, so it must be better & cheaper, right?

What is never on the floor plan is that it takes about as many people to manage 100 systems is about the same as 100 virtual systems, IF they are well managed. What I suspect is that many shops aren't managing 100 systems well, with no common practices, startups, or images, and suddenly the VM environments make that easy, or at least a lot more obvious ... which is probably where they get surprised.


Re:Does this come as a surprise? (1)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899746)

It's not always that they are managing 100 systems badly. In some cases, there were very real reasons for multiple system types, and multiple platforms. Companies often develop products separately, especially if those products were developed a decade or more ago. Alpha, for instance, was a great platform for this company, and they were making heavy investment in them, up until they received a whole crapload of them in 2006, only to have HP tell them "Sorry, EOL" a few months later.

This company also has discrete systems running on Sparc/Solaris, Windows, and Linux. The reason behind this was the fact that some of these products were developed 10-20 years ago, when such separate development made sense and they picked best of breed systems for that time, or because they have acquired various companies over the last decade that brought products in-house which were on different platforms.

That worked great, until you get to the point where you have 3-4 divisions each supporting different platforms in the same datacenter, each one continually upgrading and expanding. Because of the diversity, they were unable to share *ANY* resource (including networking infrastructure, for reasons which I won't get into, but this includes world-wide data center connectivity, and is partly political, partly contractual, and partly just doing things in the same way to not rock the boat, so to speak).

A few years ago they made the decision to get away from disk storage and move to SANs. It was a good move for them. This was the first step to virtualization, and a major one.

But it has become increasingly unwieldy to continue in this model. Virtualization makes a lot of sense for them, and will scale back all sorts of costs and support contracts, some of it to the tune of $10m per year in old hardware/OS support.

For them, going to virtualization makes sense. It will generate millions of dollars per year in saving, and untangle many complex problems, such as development issues. Its also something they are not approaching stupidly, as it is a 5-10 year project for them. They're not rushing it.


Re:Does this come as a surprise? (1)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899770)

As a youngster I was frusterated by the dinosours as well. Man, were they thick.

On the other hand, there are many places where the Vax or Alpha/VMS servers are older than 15 years. Solid as a rock, and the companies would be morons to pull the plug.

I have done a fair amount of work on OpenVMS with clients, and I don't see any platform that is more stable, and it really is well suited to some tasks. I consider AIX lighter weight than VMS, Linux even lighter... and I would never dream of putting anything mission critical on Windows or OS-X. (In addition, porting some clients OpenVMS code to an OS running on commodity hardware would run in the tens of millions)

(The place I am at now has 18 microvaxes that are being phased out just now - after 25 years. They have run the same code, no changes )

Re:Does this come as a surprise? (1)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900182)

But the problem isn't how reliable they are. The problem arises from the need to change their products and grow. Since HP will stop selling the Alpha in the future, they have a decision to make. Not only that, but when you are talking about hundreds of servers (that's after they decommissioned 300+ last year) support costs are a huge financial drain. And development costs are increasing as VMS coding skills get more and more rare and specialized. So, overall, they don't have much of a choice but to look for ways to mitigate those issues and look for better ways to run *EVERYTHING*, not just the product sets running on Alpha infrastructure.


Ha! (1, Funny)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899266)

[Virtualization] also asks IT experts from different realms to work more closely together.

Oh yes, there will be blood.

Resource Scheduling (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899282)

How do you ensure that the VM supervisor fairly and efficiently allocates resources to the VMs? The mainframe people put a great deal of work into this area. One badly behaved VM shouldn't be able to degrade the performance of the other VMs.

Re:Resource Scheduling (5, Informative)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899402)

VMware has multiple ways to balance and protect resources. You can set hard limits on VM resource utilization, ensuring that one machine can never take over a certain percentage of CPU, memory and even network bandwidth. VMs can also be given "shares", which determine priority over resources. In a contention for resources, the VM with the highest number shares is given immediate access to what it needs, with the lower share VMs splitting what's left over. This is the recommended way to handle it, as it gives you the best overall hardware utilization across your entire implementation.

Starting in VI3, VMware also introduced the ability for VMs to migrate automatically across an entire farm of hosts, based on server load. In my experience, with very little tweaking, VMware does a very good job of fairly balancing resources.

This is not a problem with virtualization (4, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899288)

This is a problem with management and/or the IT staff.

Management should run the company in a way that cooperation is rewarded not punished. Consolidation to save money shouldn't result in harm to those who are making it happen or anyone else for that matter.

The IT staff as well as all of the other employees and officers should have the attitude that if it's good for the company and not bad for anyone else it's the right thing to do.

So you should ask yourself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899964)

With every decision that you make: Is this good for the company? Am I helping the best way that I can for the company...

Must have a valid need for virtualization first (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899294)

At my job, we honestly don't have a valid reason to adopt virtualization right now. It'll actually cost us more money to accomplish the same job we're presently doing without it. But my boss wants to deploy it somehow only because it's one of the latest buzzwords. I guess it looks good to have some vm experience on my c.v. also ;-)

Re:Must have a valid need for virtualization first (1)

lazy_playboy (236084) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900056)

Whoops, forget to click 'post anonymously'? ;-)

Well of course (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899298)

Yes, well, naturally the problem is us "peons" can't work together. It has nothing to do with the fact that our bosses don't have a fucking clue about how to use the technology.

Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (1, Interesting)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899346)

Yes, I'm the cranky IT guy. I'm responsible for the stability, scalability, and security of our IT resources. Every time I hear about someone pushing virtual servers it makes me want to jump out of a window.

Items that need to be redundant, should not be virtualized on shared hardware. I've heard people want to virtualize redundant instances of directory services, databases, proxy servers...etc. I call this the "putting all your eggs in one,central-point-of-failure, hardware basket".

Virtualization has its place, but thanks to falling hardware costs, sometimes it is worth dedicating small, cheap, boxes to a specific task.


Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (1)

greed (112493) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899482)

Don't forget, when you put all your redundant services on virtualized nodes on the same server, you've ADDED a failure mode that wasn't there before: the hypervisor.

Which means it is worse than you'd have just by playing tricks to get (say) several DNS servers on the same box. (Alright, multiple IPs on a single LAN card isn't that tricky.)

What I find virtual nodes for is trying configurations out; which can include running what should be separate physical machines on the same box. But that's Not Suitable For Production Use. (An example I'll be talking with my manager next week is several server nodes for a shared file system on a single server so I can test fail-over and data migration without having to get a hold of several boxes to test.)

Other posters already noted little bitty things that don't need a whole machine virtualize well already. Maybe it's a UNIX thing, but I already just run several things on the same node in that case. License server daemons, little departmental web server, low-use file server, they're all sitting on the same box.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (2, Informative)

PowerEdge (648673) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899488)

With HA and Clustering capabilities offered by many virtualization solutions you could end up taking a physical server and resources that weren't redundant and through consolidation efforts end up with more redundancy than before. It's all in how the solution is designed and knowing when to use virtualization and when not to use virtualization.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (1)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899518)

Until all those cheap box fill your datacenter and cause power outages in the area due to the load the put on the grid. The main reason for virtualization is taking those small task boxes that hardly do anything and pile them all together on to one piece of hardware that can do all of them, while still maintaning their "dedicated" feel.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899768)

...which really doesn't buy you anything more than just engaging in classic server consolidation.

You get added overhead and a warm fuzzy with consolidation. That's it. You don't avoid the shared maintenance problems that would come from just consolidating on a single OS image. If you have shared components, they will break and need replaced. Your SLA's for all the diverse applications will be tied together anyways.

OTOH, your apps get the false notion that they have access to more resources than they really do.

That's bound to cause confusion.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899542)

Virtual servers can be clustered so there is no one central point of failure. If you have redundant instances on multiple physical boxes I don't see how that's a bad thing.

One of the big reasons it's taking off is because powering/cooling that one small, cheap box is rapidly becoming the largest cost of hosting a server, and 70%+ of it is never being used. So it makes sense to squeeze more onto it if needed.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (4, Insightful)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899576)

Items that need to be redundant, should not be virtualized on shared hardware. I've heard people want to virtualize redundant instances of directory services, databases, proxy servers...etc. I call this the "putting all your eggs in one,central-point-of-failure, hardware basket".

If you're doing something stupid like putting clusters or redundant servers on the same virtualization host, then I would agree. High availability loses it's meaning if all your nodes have a single point of failure.

However, there's absolutely no reason you can't make your virtualization implementation highly available itself. Right now, I have clusters running in VMware VI3, that are running on separate hosts. Even with DRS, which balances all your VMs across an entire pool of servers, I can ensure that redundant servers and clusters don't end up running on the same piece of physical hardware. And when you add HA into the mix, you also provide a level of high availability to systems that you might not otherwise have been able to justify the expense on.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899590)

False economy. The cost of the small cheap box is a pittance compared to the cost of housing it in a full blown datacenter and maintaining it.

I'd only avoid virtualization, as you said, for systems where uptime is so vital that that the expense of redundant servers is deemed worthwhile. But that still leaves a lot of systems ripe to be virtualized.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900026)

Not to mention that you can easily consolidate a bunch of smaller servers onto a single hardware server, and then create a second one of those for redundancy. Virtualization actually adds to the number of options available, but zerofoo seems to be one of those types who will just say "Virtualization bad!" and harumph in the corner. It'll be a shame when he loses his job because he hasn't taken the time to actually understand what the technology can do for him.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899974)

Then you'll love what we ended up doing. Two virtualization virtual server...and manual failover. Way to waste hardware, batman.

Re:Yes, i'm cranky - here's why. (1)

eth1 (94901) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900164)

Virtualization can actually help with redundancy. If you need a mail relay, an AD server, and a DNS box, would you rather have two of each on their own hardware (six boxes), or three of each, with one each on each of three boxes (system load permitting)?

the trouble with realization, leaves some feeling (-1, Troll)

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obj (-1, Redundant)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899458)

When IT staffers fight, its the virtual servers that suffer... wont someone think about the virtual servers....

Skirts the problem (2, Insightful)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899514)

The problem is not that we don't want to work together. It is that you often cede control when you virtualize. And most of us don't love giving up control.

With virtualization in some Corp's, you have to ask for another of the 32 processors, instead of just having the headroom all the time.(work that one through a buricratic organization, it can take months)
Say you have a need to add another fax board(or whatever) to the virtualized x86 server, to find that they stuck some mission critical Virtual Environment on the Server and It CAN'T come down for another 2 weeks.

Yep, it saves hardware, but multiplies headaches in some situations. It is no wonder some fear it.

Re:Skirts the problem (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899688)

"Say you have a need to add another fax board(or whatever) to the virtualized x86 server, to find that they stuck some mission critical Virtual Environment on the Server and It CAN'T come down for another 2 weeks."
That problem is actually pretty simple.
1. Is the hardware you need available as a USB or firewire device? If so use that to add it for now.
2. Migrate the none mission critical service to a different box. One of the great things about virtual servers is that you can move them pretty easily if need be. Or migrate the mission critical service to a different service.
3. Or just wait until you can bring it down.

Re:Skirts the problem (4, Insightful)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899698)

Nobody should EVER virtualize a server that needs special hardware. EVER. Virtual servers should be reserved for the most generic of hardware requirements. Once you start bringing in fax boards you need a dedicated physical solution. If you want to test that kind of thing, go ahead and virtualize it, but the production box should be physical. I shudder to think of a virtualized firewall or router. Ouch.

Re:Skirts the problem (2, Interesting)

rwyoder (759998) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899990)

I shudder to think of a virtualized firewall or router. Ouch.
NetScreen firewalls have had virtualization capability for a long time. Cisco routers have virtualization via commands using the "vrf" parameter.

Re:Skirts the problem (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900356)

Hold up, on a cisco router or switch "vrf" is used for mpls process separation. It doesn't virtualize multiple instances of IOS.

Re:Skirts the problem (4, Funny)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900062)

But the IBM commercial told me that i could replace my entire datacenter with a single server! Are you telling me that those two youngish looking racially diverse guys having a conversation at a coffee shop about sloshing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware around even though neither of them really seems to be sure what all of it does were LYING TO ME!?

Re:Skirts the problem (1)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900436)


Re:Skirts the problem (2, Interesting)

cduffy (652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900310)

That's just silly. Why would you put a physical fax card in your virtual server?

Virtualize the fax card with iaxmodem, run it over a TCP connection to a serial port on a separate box, use t38modem with the other endpoint on a dedicated piece of Cisco hardware... there are plenty of other options.

Re:Skirts the problem (3, Informative)

ender- (42944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900422)

Say you have a need to add another fax board(or whatever) to the virtualized x86 server, to find that they stuck some mission critical Virtual Environment on the Server and It CAN'T come down for another 2 weeks.

Aside from another poster's excellent point about not virtualizing servers that require specialized hardware, you're missing another point of the virtualized servers.

In the case of VMWare ESX server, you'd use VMotion to solve this problem. Say you have a cluster of 3 or 4 physical servers running some number of VMs. Hopefully you're not dumb enough to have all those servers running anywhere near 100%. :) If you need to do work on a physical server [say hardware replacement, firmware upgrade, etc], you put that server into maintenance mode. VMWare will automatically and **transparently** migrate the running VMs onto the remaining servers. You can then power off the physical server, do whatever you need to do, and power it back on. When it comes back up, take it out of maintenance mode, and VMWare will automatically start migrating VMs back onto it to balance the load.

Nobody will notice the fact that their mission critical server just moved from one box to another. Worst case, if your servers were already a bit too heavily loaded, some applications will slow down a bit while you're doing maintenance, but a temporary slow down is a lot better than having an application completely down every time you have to upgrade firmware or replace a stick of RAM.

As an added bonus, if you so choose, VMotion can automatically balance the VMs at all times, so if one particular VM is suddenly requiring a large amount of resources, VMotion can migrate it to a less heavily loaded box, or migrate other less needy VMs to another box to free resources for the VM that needs it. This is great for handling short-term usage fluctuations, or can even be scripted to adjust for known, regular usage peaks.

That's not to say there aren't downsides to virtualization, but the situation you described isn't one of them.

Cranky IT Staff ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21899626)

Cranky IT Staffs, All IT Staffs are cranky. What of it. Long hours, work weekends, holidays, 7/24/365 on call schedules. Suck it up whimp.

Windows on LINUX? Or LINUX on Windows? (4, Funny)

Danathar (267989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899672)

You want to watch a fight? Get the Windows Server sysadmins and the UNIX/LINUX sysadmins and ask each group which server OS should be the "Native" operating system under which the other

Re:Windows on LINUX? Or LINUX on Windows? (4, Interesting)

jojo1835 (470854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900366)

Yeah... which is why you run it under VMware 3i. No "Native" OS to worry about, just pure hypervisor goodness. []

Have a great day!


"when CIOs deploy a new technology" (2, Insightful)

lanner (107308) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899782)

"when CIOs deploy a new technology"

That could be your problem right there. When a specific technology or whoop-do-doo product is pushed from the top down, rather than the bottom up, it's a problem. That's not the same as management saying "Get this done", so much as it's "Use this fancy thingy I read about in the newspaper... who cares what it does or if there is something better, I'm the decider!"

One nice thing about virtualization... (1)

foxtrot (14140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899860)

For no readily apparent reason, my company started leasing Windows servers a decade or so ago instead of buying 'em outright. The good news is you have new hardware every three years. The bad news is you have to move everything.

A couple years back they went virtualized with everything. Now lease-rolls are a piece of cake; shut off your virtual server, zone the SAN storage so the new box can see it, and fire it up on the new box. Poof.

That said, I'm still glad I'm not a Windows admin here. Who leases servers?!

squabbling IT staff? time to kick some ass (5, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21899922)

Just the same, political squabbles among IT staffers fighting for turf

This is a classic sign of a broken IT department. One place I worked, if you (well, if I) needed to increase the size of a database table, I had to get sign-offs from

  • The database team - not unreasonable
  • the server team - it ran on their boxes
  • the storage team - they allocated the disk space
  • the network team - as the storage was NAS'd (bad idea!!!)
  • the backup/security team - or it wouldn't get backed up

net result? nothing ever got agreed. The simplest changes took forever and cost a fortune. The operation is now outsourced.

Who's to blame? Probably not the techies, they just pressed buttons. Quite likely the team-leaders for turning it political, definitely the IT managers who allowed the situation to continue.

Who kept their jobs?
yup, the managers! You've been warned: infighting only hurts the foot-soldiers, the generals aren't affected. Sort it out yourselves or you'll have to start learning chinese.

Re:squabbling IT staff? time to kick some ass (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900256)

This is the reason that I leave a company after it gets TOO Large. When you have that many layers to get anything done at the low levels you know that very little is done at the top. It turns into a game of "Well, I submitted the request for your new laptop. Must be tied up in red tape" and that's not worth anyones time except the people who lose money by having a budget that includes unexpected laptop costs that quarter.

Virtualization ? HAHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900058)

One thing - CPU HOG that virtualization really fail. Our users just end up turning up their nose
after finding out VMWARE is a pig and a couple big compilation really kill the performance of the system

So we end up buying more machines and dumping VMWARES....

They need Mr. T! (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21900396)

Our good friend, Mr. T., needs to pay them a visit [] to talk about the DOs and DON'Ts of Virtualization...

[not an endorsement for the advertised product--it's just ridiculously funny]

virtualization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21900442)

"A new survey on the results of Enterprise use of virtualization shows that the process is seeing wide and appreciative use."

Virtualization ... is that like the cloaking device?
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