VIRTUALIZATION

4 tips for virtualization deployments

If your agency has started a virtualization project or is considering doing so, here are some steps you should take to ensure success.

1. Assess your existing environment. “When you do any kind of virtualization deployment, assessment is a big key,” said Jim Smid, data center practice manager at Apptis Technology Solutions. “You have to understand what you have so when you go to the virtualized world, all those things are taken into account. That is a building block. And organizations have been struggling with assessments and having the right tools to automate discovery and requirement mapping between applications.”

2. Identify the best applications for virtualization. “One of the major challenges is identifying the right applications that need to be virtualized,” said Tony Encinias, chief technology officer for Pennsylvania, which has launched a server virtualization initiative. “Not every application is compatible with [the virtualization] software” you choose.

“You have to develop your design upfront,” he said. “You have to know what that virtual infrastructure is going to entail.” You must diligently test applications before deploying them and examine how the technology will address the needs of the business or organization you support.

If an application is CPU-intensive, you might want to think twice about switching to a virtual machine. Otherwise, you must dedicate more virtual resources to that application, which could reduce your return on investment in the virtualization technology, he said.

3. Be aware of potential management issues. “If you have 10 or 20 applications on a [virtualized] box and that box goes down, not only are you affecting one application or one customer, you’re affecting 20 or more applications and possibly 20 or more customers,” Encinias said. “So you have to be cognizant of your service delivery model and making sure your problem management processes are in place so you can recover."

Scott Keough, a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, agreed that agencies need a set of best practices and processes. He recommended that they use frameworks such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, which is a set of concepts and policies for managing IT infrastructures, development and operations.

4. Consider the security implications of virtualization. Best practices should also extend to your security strategy. Make sure you are monitoring the state of security of your virtualized environments, said Eric Chiu, president and chief executive officer of HyTrust, a start-up company focused on security in virtualized environments.

You should have controlled access policies and good audit trails, he added.

As virtualization spreads, agencies can install processes to address how people access systems, but you need technology to make sure people conform to those policies, Chiu said.

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