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Data Center Expert Warns SMBs Against “Over-Virtualization”

Data Center Expert Warns SMBs Against “Over-Virtualization”

Steve Kovski | Daily Tech

September 18, 2009

Hypervisors are running amok in the server room. A survey published earlier this month by research firm TheInfoPro states that 50 percent of new servers installed this year will be virtualized, and predicts the number will climb to 80 percent within three years. One of the biggest growth areas for the technology, according to researcher Steve Hilton at Yankee Group, is in small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs), where as many as 69% of SMBs say they plan to adopt server virtualization in the next 24 months.

While SMBs may have been a little slower on the virtual machine uptake than their big-business counterparts in the past, they seem to be making up for lost time. SMBs typically have a higher concentration of virtualization in their IT operations according to Greg Schultz, senior analyst for IT research and consulting company StorageIO, and author of the recent book, “The Green and Virtual Data Center.” Enterprise-class companies may tend to have a higher count of virtualized servers overall, Schultz says, but “It’s more likely in an SMB environment to see a higher level of virtualization – in other words, 50, 60 70, maybe even up to 100 percent of their servers have been virtualized.”

In fact, if there’s such a thing as “over-virtualization,” an SMB server room is where you’re most likely to find it. Schultz says that in some cases, SMBs may actually be virtualizing to an unhealthy degree. These smaller businesses sometimes find themselves “going on a craze of trying to over-consolidate, and trying to over-optimize, to the (detriment) of performance.”

When taken to such extremes, virtualization can actually be an obstacle to increasing productivity, Schultz adds. He warns of a “dark side,” where SMBs may realize too late that “in the quest to try to drive up utilization and squeeze more and more out, the performance is impacted, the response time and quality of service, latency – things that can have an impact on the top line as well as the bottom line of productivity, (and affect) what your users and customers see.”

Schultz also cautions against the tendency among some smaller firms, caught up in the fervor to virtualize, to forget about “the basics, such as fault containment, fault isolation, basic high availability, business continuity and disaster recovery.” There is an inherent problem when small companies place too many virtual machines on a single server, he said. “All of a sudden, that one server has become a single point of failure,” he noted. “You’ve put all your proverbial eggs in one basket.”

Schultz recommends using virtualization in moderation, always making sure that there are redundancies in place to protect against outages and failures. Doubling up on storage and network adapters can also be important, he says. “If I have a bunch of servers, and by themselves they’re not requiring a lot of network activity, or a lot of storage or I/O activity, when I bunch them all together, their aggregate processing needs are going to be greater. So they’re going to need more CPU, more memory, more I/O capability.

“All those things need to be kept in perspective,” Schultz says, “such that in the quest to optimize the environment, you don’t inadvertently introduce bottlenecks or instability.”