So you and your company have been planning your journey to the cloud, and a major step involves virtualizing your servers to get rid of all that bulky on-premise hardware. But maybe you’re not sure where to start, or need help identifying best practices when it comes to setting up your new VMs. I’ve compiled my top three tips for making server virtualization as effective and painless as possible. These pointers will help guide you to avoid potential stumbling blocks, so you can spend less time getting set up and more time focused on serving your business.
Tip #1: Size Wisely
It might sound logical to get the largest capacity VMs possible to accommodate any size workload, right? Not so fast. Over-provisioning CPUs on a VM can actually make performance worse, not better. In general, your CPU allocations should match the utilization. If the server isn’t fully consuming resources, it’s over-provisioned, and might be impacting performance. If you need more resources later, you can always scale out and add additional server resources. On the other side of the coin, make sure you’re not overtaxing your hosts – metrics like memory ballooning and CPU ready are early indicators that the host is reaching its limit. (For more on VM efficiency, see 5 Things That Can Bog Down Virtual Infrastructure.)
Tip #2: Stay N+1 Redundant
The rule “two is one and one is none” definitely applies here. N+1 redundancy is necessary to ensure minimal downtime if one of your hosts goes belly-up. There’s a misconception out there that VMs aren’t susceptible to similar problems you might encounter with a physical server. In fact, redundancy is even more important if each of your hosts is running multiple VMs. In addition to keeping hot and warm spares, a cold spare allows you to restore your N+1 protection right away if and when a faulty host arises and needs repair. While making the switch from physical servers might save you many headaches when it comes to incident management and resolution, you’ll still want to have a backup host, and another one, a “backup to the backup” so to speak.
Tip #3 Monitor the Ins & Outs
Just like a smoke detector in your home, it’s crucial to make sure your alerting systems and recovery procedures are tested and practiced regularly. Alerting systems are pretty much useless if they don’t proactively alert you when a potential incident arises. In addition, don’t forget to use a combination of internal and external monitoring services, in case your internal ones aren’t able to exit the network. If your email server goes offline while running on a crashed host, for example, how will you know if any alerts are being sent while you can’t receive emails? It’s always better to have a plan and protocols in place when something unexpected happens so that you and your team can respond as rapidly and effectively as possible. This kind of preparation can also help you minimize downtime when incidents do occur, which of course translates to minimizing business impact. (For more on incident management, check out Security Information Event Management (SIEM): In It for the Long Haul.)
You’d be surprised how many companies fall victim to basic, easily avoidable pitfalls when it comes to transitioning from physical servers to VMs. If you’re prepared and know what to look for, then you can maintain the upper hand against any challenges that may arise and set yourself up for a successful migration.