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Best Practices for Planning and Implementing Virtualization

Virtualization is not a single technology but a way to design technological solutions. The term “virtualization” does not necessarily mean server virtualization only. You can use virtualization in creating IT services, which are more resilient, agile and cost-effective.

Some organizations have managed to achieve great benefits by just coinciding with the expectations of their customers and acquired greater value through their virtualization projects as compared to others. The reason is that they understood the need for highly efficient IT management processes in a complex and modern data centre.

This means, that the technology is never sufficient by itself. In fact, it needs to be supported by qualified and skilled people, through right processes, with enough knowledge and tools to run it smoothly. There are a number of points to consider while implementing virtualization. Following are the best practices, which can help you in facilitating your business in getting those advantages from virtualization:

Monitoring and Managing Every Component

Monitoring and managing all components of your IT solutions is extremely important. The components include both physical as well as virtual ones. Management of components involve activities like shut down and startup, changes in security, backup and restoration of settings and data, and responding of routine events. All such activities should be documented in well-communicated, fully tested SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).

Standardization and Automation

Haste can lead to severe mistakes. If you have huge number of components in your organization, you must try automating all the routine activities by using well-tested and effective procedures, which work efficiently across the environment. Configuring components to highly defined standards lets you eliminate differences between similar components. Established standards and configurations allow support staff to work productively without constant need to refer to the detailed documentation.

A good approach is to begin with a description of all the scenarios you wish to support; for instance, creation as well as deployment of the latest virtual server, network connections, operating system and virtual storage. Now work on identifying the process to authorize and record the scenario, and then start creating supporting standards and automation.

Scalable and Robust Changes and Configuration Management

One of the biggest advantages of virtualization is the ability of making rapid changes, hence contributing to high availability and agility that your business requires. The key to make robust management change is to define standard changes, which are well tested. In addition, all the configuration documentation must be up to date to provide the required information for managing the IT services.

For example, if you wish to make emergency changes to a network router or switch, then you have to spot out all the IT services running on all of the virtual servers whose data is routed through that component.

Providing IT Staff with Knowledge and Training

To avoid problems and produce fruitful results, your IT staff should have good knowledge of the environment, its configuration, function of the environment, effective use of the tools, and interpretation of available data. Shifting from a physical to a virtual infrastructure is a huge change to digest for your staff and employees, therefore it is important to help them in developing their skills and providing them with the training, they need for supporting the services. The formal training must be supplemented with learning opportunities like webinars, discussion forums and opportunities for practicing in a safe environment.

Integrating and Automating Requests Fulfillment and Deployment

The process of deployment is used for creating new virtual components based on a standard build. The process of request fulfillment enables a person requesting standard change. Then, that request is fulfilled. Several vendors include deployment tools in the virtualization products they sell, and these tools automate the deployment process efficiently. It is important that the deployment process should be fully integrated with the process of request fulfillment. This will help in:

• Validating all requests and verifying receipt of all the required information

• Ensuring appropriate financial and business approvals

• Prioritizing the requests and seeing that they are fulfilled within the agreed time period

• Logging and tracking the requests and fulfilling them to enable reporting

• Providing an audit trail for delivering full accountability for all the actions and the ownership of assets

Testing and Re-testing

A common practice followed by organizations is implementing a small virtualization project, using it for testing the product’s technical capabilities and t interaction with the applications. Now, this testing level is insufficient for verifying whether virtualization will provide the real business benefits.

To verify that testing is sufficiently comprehensive, it is essential to carry out the following kinds of testing:

• Component testing: Whether the individual components are performing as per expectations

• Operational testing: Whether the operational processes are working appropriately

• Scenario-based testing: Are complex interactions among components working as expected in the real-life scenarios or not?

• Service-acceptance testing: Do the services meet the requirements of the business?

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    Sadaf Ajmal