Seven Tips for Managing a Multiple-Vendor Virtualization Environment

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Fortisphere CTO John Suit meets with a lot of companies who are trying to get a better grip on managing virtualization. In the field lately, he sees the results of the virtualization downside that IT leaders have been telling us about for months: VMs roll out awfully quickly. This speed is a blessing and a curse, since each VM you create is another one you must track, manage and secure. Unfortunately, it becomes even more complicated to keep track of VM sprawl and related worries when you start playing with more than one vendor's virtualization technology.

And with Microsoft having released Hyper-V to manufacturing last week and shipping it soon, if at least one person in your IT department isn't playing with Hyper-V yet, just wait. Someone will be soon.

IT departments need to do more advance planning for managing virtualization technologies from several vendors, Suit says. "I thought it would be a bit more thought out," Suit says. "There's been a lot of let's just try Xen, let's just try Hyper-V, and then people just jump into using it."

It's worth noting, of course, that Fortisphere sells virtualization management tools including Virtual Essentials. This is a look at management and security risks that may arise in a multiple-vendor virtualization environment, not management product advice.

Here are seven steps to consider as you prepare to add virtualization vendors to your mix:

1. Define what cross-platform and cross-OS solutions you need.

For instance, Suit says, are you considering keeping VMware for servers but using some Citrix technology for virtual desktops? Does your shop require Microsoft in certain spots, but perhaps not in as many as was the case in the past? Think about what technology fits where naturally in your virtualized environment, he says.

2. Require your technology management vendors to support at least VMware, Microsoft and Citrix now.

Waiting around for your management tools to support multiple infrastructure vendors can stall internal adoption and increase political controversy among your IT staff, Suit says.

Based on their experiences with VMware, "Customers may expect management features for mobility, portability and lineage to be there today," for all the platforms, Suit says. But some management tool functionality may not be available for Citix and Microsoft platforms yet. Lean on your vendors to ramp up quickly to work with the big three, he says.

3. Prepare for the virtualization politics.

We're talking about IT staff politics, here, the problem that IT leaders cited as one of their top three challenges in CIO's enterprise survey on virtualization. "This always happens; different people are responsible for different pieces," Suit says. When you start comparing vendors' technologies, politics are bound to pop up; people may even feel their expertise or jobs are on the line.

"Understand what people are religious about," Suit says, whether it's VMware, Microsoft or even storage.

Storage is becoming more of a hot-button issue for IT departments as vendors encourage customers to let storage products carry more of the responsibility for VM cloning and VM migration tasks.

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