Private Cloud – Manage those VMs
It’s a a common occurrence – a server is needed very quickly and a virtualized environment allows for the fast deployment. In fact, some organisations are decentralising the deployment and management of virtual servers out of the IT function and in some cases to ‘super users’.
Beware – although this may speed-up the deployment of a platform, it will come back and bite you if you don’t manage it effectively.
A virtualized server may not need its own racked hardware, power and cooling, but it needs all the other maintenance, management and TLC that physical servers need.
Virtualized servers are much quicker to deploy that a physical, but make sure you have a process that is followed by everyone that is able to do it. This will ensure standards are kept to such as naming, licensing, anti-virus software and updating of the inventory.
Management and control
Aside from the physical aspects, a virtual server needs just as much management as a physical server. Make sure you maintain an inventory of all virtual servers as you would with all physicals. Perform a regular reconciliation between the inventory and the actual VMs that exist.
Do not allow yourself to get into VM-sprawl, otherwise you will have a headache in trying to get on top of the situation.
It’s all too easy to roll-out a new VM and forget about backing it up. You may have a replicated SAN for your storage – but replication isn’t a backup. Make sure that arranging backups is part of the deployment process.
Patching, Anti-virus and Protection
Here’s another reason why you need to manage your virtual servers. Don’t create a VM and handover management and control to someone who won’t keep it up to date with software updates (WSUS if Microsoft), anti-virus, application software patches etc.
If you don’t ensure VMs are patched, they will rapidly become a significant gap in your infrastructure security and protection.
Don’t get caught out by software licensing. If you are only running open source software you may be covered, but you will find that other licensable product licence terms sometimes don’t fit well with a virtualized world.
Microsoft’s Data Centre licence, although expensive, is a method of ‘buying your way out of a problem’, as it allows you to run multiple instances of their Server operating systems on a virtualized server. Take specialist licensing advice to ensure you understand how you need to be licence with regard to the number of processors and multiple physical VM hosts.
Don’t forget other software that is installed on the server. Even though a non-IT member may have installed it, you may be responsible for licensing in your firm.
Also, make sure you understand the licensing implications of software on a VM that is copied ‘for testing’ or for ‘safe keeping’. Different software vendors have very different views and many software contracts were written before the days of VMs.
And finally ….
Don’t get me wrong – I am fully supportive and promoting of virtualized environments. The message here is to manage them as thoroughly as if they were physicals. A virtual server that isn’t managed properly could become a chink in your security armour or a legal liability if not licensed.
Manage those VMs !