Virtualisation is not only helping companies maximise the use of their IT resources, it is also changing the way they monitor the performance of IT services.
In a survey conducted by TRAC Research, a market research firm, 62 per cent of organisations reported that limited visibility across the IT infrastructure is a key challenge in managing IT performance in a virtualised environment.
That finding is hardly surprising, since in a virtualised IT infrastructure, the nuts and bolts of a data centre – such as servers, networks and hard disks – are merely conduits for running virtual machines, along with virtual switches and storage that can be optimised on the fly to meet changing IT demands.
Yet, in a virtualised IT setup, optimising the performance of IT networks using network management tools is more crucial than before.
“While many organisations are focused on maximising the availability and performance of applications, the underlying infrastructure responsible for delivering that availability is ever more complex,” said Sanjay Castelino, Vice President and Market Leader at SolarWinds, a leading provider of IT management tools.
“As a result, the tools that look at only top line application performance are not capable of managing the health and performance of the infrastructure,” he told Techgoondu in an interview.
“For example, in a fault tolerant application environment, the slow-down of part of the network infrastructure may not have an impact on application performance till a particular link has failed.
“However, monitoring the actual infrastructure would show this performance degradation much earlier, enabling the network engineers to get ahead of the issue,” Castelino added.
Take Energie Südbayern GmbH (ESB), an energy supplier in Munich, Germany with two data centres that are virtualised at up to 90 per cent of their capacity. The company has deployed 400 virtual machines that provide access to 820 applications across 16 remote locations.
The company was looking for robust and comprehensive IT management tools to monitor their virtual machines and physical blades while providing the right statistics and performance metrics for effective monitoring.
ESB turned to SolarWinds when it realised its previous IT management software was not scalable enough to meet the needs of its growing IT infrastructure. The product also generated a series of false alarms after it became overloaded with system monitoring queries.
“While discovering the network at the implementation phase, we found some problems we would never have known about without SolarWinds,” said ESB’s System Administrator Benjamin Nawrath.
“With the combination of Virtualisation Manager, Storage Manager and Network Performance Monitor (NPM) modules from SolarWinds, we receive extremely good insight into how our virtual data centres perform, scale and deal with the daily business requirements,” said Nawrath.
“Since all of SolarWinds software performs really well together, we can drill down on any performance issue or error source quickly to restore operations if something fails,” he added.
According to TRAC Research, the deployment of virtualisation technologies has elevated the importance of effective network management.
“In the case of a physical server, a network issue will only affect the applications running on that specific server, but in a virtual environment, a network issue can affect all virtual machines and the applications running on them,” the analyst firm said in a research note last year.
“As virtual environments grow, applications and their data stores may be spread across multiple servers, placing an even greater need for managed network performance,” it added.
TRAC noted that the ability to support virtualised environments has become one of the key competitive differentiators in the network management tools market. Vendors are thus compelled to enhance their offerings to support administrators of IT networks and virtual machines.
Castelino said: “SolarWinds has a complete set of virtualisation management capabilities. Firstly at the network level, NPM supports several of the most popular virtual switches, and monitors utilisation of both virtual and physical interfaces. In addition, NPM enables engineers to monitor the virtual machines and hosts”.
“Beyond NPM’s capabilities, SolarWinds offers both virtualisation and storage management products that look far beyond the individual machines and interfaces to the management of the shared resources (storage and compute), capacity planning, optimisation of resource allocation, chargeback reporting and more,” he added.
Another area of network management that is affected by virtualisation is IP address management. As virtual machines are moved from one physical server to another, it is important to ensure that IP addresses are tracked and configured using network management tools.
At Monroe City Schools in Louisiana, United States, IP addresses were tracked by paper and guesswork. Single network pings were also used to identify free or unused address spaces.
Thanks to SolarWinds’ IP Address Manager (IPAM), the school system now gets a real picture of their IP leases and available addresses across 21 public schools.
The tool has also allowed IT administrators to be more proactive in ensuring all sites have available IP resources, saving countless man-hours.
To check out how you can get started, head on to Solarwinds’ website for a free bandwidth monitor. This page is brought to you by Solarwinds.