Top 10 questions to ask before building virtual environments

Virtualization adoption is on the rise. The ability to replace 3 to 6 physical servers with only one has proven to be beneficial and extremely valuable. Data centers are changing for the better due to virtualization platforms such as VMWare ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, and Redhat RHV. It is no surprise that the virtualization adoption rate is expected to increase by 10% by the end of 2017.

Virtualization platforms allow companies to remove hardware and rack space handcuffs and maximize resource utilization through overprovisioning and oversubscribing. Software and appliance based vendors are adopting to this fast adaptation to virtualization and are focusing on creating software images of their products for the commercial and consumer markets.

As a virtualization specialist, I’ve noticed a visible trend over the past few years: many users do not have a game plan. Users are either buying or re-purposing an old server, installing a virtualization platform and then just start creating virtual images without a plan. This is not the best approach. Users who do not have a true understanding of the host’s resource allocation process, the virtual network and the different disk types available are at risk of running into many challenges.

For example, many clients tend to spin up new images when they need something without realizing that the hypervisor is slowly degrading in performance, which in turn is trickling down to all the images running on it. A very common scenario these days is spinning up lots of servers for various temporary and ongoing projects and never cleaning up those temporary instances which invariably cause issues later down the road for the admins.

The first step and one of the most crucial steps in setting up a virtual environment is having a solid game plan, including details on planning and sizing. Just like a new business idea need to ask yourself some questions and do your homework. Here are the top 10 questions you need to ask yourself before setting up a virtual environment to ensure a successful implementation.

1. What do I need to accomplish?
2. Which virtualization platform is best fit for what I am trying to accomplish?
3. How many servers will be running on a single virtual host (hypervisor)?
4. What are the requirements for each piece of software running on each of the servers?
5. Are each of the servers in the same VLAN? Or just a simple LAN?
6. How disk intensive are the applications running on these servers?
7. How many virtual host(s) do I plan to have in the next 5 years?
8. If multiple hosts, how will I manage them?
9. What are the licensing costs?
10. How am I planning to backup these images?