Building the Next-Generation Datacenter – A Detailed Guide
Part 1: Server Consolidation
By: Birendra Gosai
Jan. 28, 2011 06:30 AM
Virtualization has the power to transform the way business runs IT, and it's the most important transition happening in IT today. It promotes flexible utilization of IT resources, reduced capital and operating costs, high energy efficiency, highly available applications, and better business continuity. However, the virtualization journey can be long and difficult as virtualization brings with it a unique set of challenges around the management and security of the virtual infrastructure. Most organizations struggle, sooner or later, with workload migrations, visibility and control, virtual machine (VM) sprawl, and the lack of datacenter agility.
Working with customers, industry analysts and other experts, CA Technologies has devised a simple four-stage model, shown in Figure 1, to describe the progression from an entry-level virtualization project to a mature dynamic data center and private cloud strategy. These stages include server consolidation, infrastructure optimization, automation and orchestration, and dynamic data center.
Figure 1: Customer virtualization maturity cycle
Most organizations face one (or more) clear ‘tipping points' during the virtualization journey where a virtualization deployment stalls as IT stops to deal with new challenges. This ‘VM stall' tends to coincide with different stages in the virtualization maturity lifecycle - such as the transition from tier 2/tier 3 server consolidation to the consolidation of mission-critical tier 1 applications, or from basic provisioning automation to a dynamic datacenter approach.
This four-part article provides guidance on the combination of people, processes and technology needed to overcome virtualization roadblocks and promote success at each of the four distinct stages of the virtualization maturity life cycle. It includes a definition of each stage and challenges associated with it, as well as a high-level project plan for a sample implementation.
It's important to note that the tasks and timelines for the sample project plans will vary depending upon the size and scope of the project, available resources, number and complexity of candidate applications, and other parameters.
Stage 1: Server Consolidation
Migrate with confidence
Table 1: Server consolidation project plan
A successful server consolidation project necessitates a structured approach that should consist of the following high-level tasks.
Server consolidation workshop
The workshop should draw a complete picture of the potential challenges with the proposed server consolidation, and include concrete strategies and recommendations on moving forward with the project. It should result in the creation of a comprehensive project plan that clearly divides tasks among the implementation teams / individuals, defines timelines, contingency plans, etc, and is approved by all the key management and IT stakeholders.
Application and system discovery / profiling
During the application discovery and profiling process, application and systems consultants should use a configuration management tool to store configuration and dependency details of the applications supported by the target workloads. These tools discover and snapshot application / system components to provide a comprehensive, cross-platform inventory of applications at a granular level, including directories, files, registries, database tables, and configuration parameters - thus allowing for greater success during workload migration.
Capacity analysis and planning
Here too, there are free tools (e.g., VMware Capacity Planner) available from hypervisor vendors, but these are ‘services heavy' and often biased toward the hypervisor vendor. In addition, they do not include important factors necessary for comprehensive capacity planning, such as power consumption, service level requirements, organizational resource pools, security restrictions, and other non-technical factors. These tools also lack critical features such as what-if analysis.
Capacity planning becomes even more important with critical applications. For instance, combining applications that have similar peak transaction times could have serious consequences, resulting in unnecessary downtime, missed SLAs, and consequent credibility issues with internal customers. To avoid such issues, historical performance data from the applications should be utilized during the capacity planning process.
There are free tools for migration available from some hypervisor vendors, but these don't work well and require system shutdown for several hours for the conversion. They might also limit the amount of data supported or require running tests on storage to uncover and address bad storage blocks in advance. Backup, High Availability (HA) and IP-based replication tools serve as a very good option for successful workload migrations as they not only help overcome / mitigate the above mentioned challenges, but also can be used for comprehensive BCDR (Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery) capabilities.
From a process standpoint, ensure that the migrations are performed per a pre-defined schedule and include acceptance testing and sign-off steps to complete the process. Ensure contingency plans, and factor in a modest amount of troubleshooting time to work out minor issues in real-time and complete the migration of that workload at that time rather than rescheduling downtime again later.
VM configuration testing
These and related actions are essential to enable a successful migration, debug post-migration issues if any, and prevent configuration drift.
Production testing and final deliverables
This final stage of the implementation process should include the delivery of documentation on the conversion and migration workflow and procedures for all workloads. Doing so will remove dependency on acquired tribal knowledge and allow staffing resources to be relatively interchangeable. These artifacts and related best practices documents will also allow continuation of the migration process for additional workloads in an autonomous fashion in the future if desired.
Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1
Latest Cloud Developer Stories
Subscribe to the World's Most Powerful Newsletters
Subscribe to Our Rss Feeds & Get Your SYS-CON News Live!
SYS-CON Featured Whitepapers
Most Read This Week