6 Keys to Maximizing Your Virtualization Investment

VMware’s Rob Juncker offers a strategy for safe and effective virtualization: strong governance and even stronger IT architecture.

By Rob Juncker, Senior Director of R&D, VMware

When virtualization came along, it turned heads as a sort of panacea of technological advancement. But we’ve known from the start there was the potential for security problems -- headaches IT managers simply don’t need.

In my opinion, virtualization is still the best way for businesses of all sizes to expand their networks, improve network efficiency, and optimize data security. Nearly every IT function (including storage, networking, and server and desktop computing) can benefit from virtualization. Virtualizing hastily, however, can leave businesses at risk.

Here’s how to virtualize while ensuring you maximize your investment and protect your assets:

Key #1: Integrate, integrate, integrate.

Translation: develop and implement carefully conceived IT and security policies, and only then jump into virtual consolidation. Setting policies is a critical part of the systems development lifecycle. Businesses need protocols for incorporating new technology into existing systems and maintaining visibility of all assets that exist on and off the network.

Key #2: Protect security to the outer reaches of the cloud.

To maximize virtualization key investments, companies need to integrate -- there’s that word again -- private and public cloud components. Protecting the whole network requires a security policy that extends to the outer boundaries of the public elements of the cloud, touching anything that could infiltrate the technology infrastructure. The security plan must strike a delicate balance between accommodating network expansion and ensuring data protection.

Key #3: Invest in agentless technology.

Meticulous user authentication policies can go a long way toward tracking the physical and virtual machines that attach to a business’ networks, but what about the rogue machines that seek to subvert the best-laid authentication plans? Agentless technology offers the safest, most convenient method of scanning companies’ IP address spaces. This technology exists within businesses’ clouds, eliminating the need for homing devices on every machine in the office, in employees’ homes, and on their cell phones. Even better, with agentless-technology businesses can do away with traditional security software applications that add another layer of susceptibility to hackers.

Key #4: Know your cloud.

IT managers need to know exactly what exists inside their networks. Transparent, organized IT infrastructures are crucial, yet a Microsoft Visio-like application cannot map the complex combination of physical and virtual machines upon which a business now relies. Today's enterprise needs network management systems that prevent the installation of unknown applications, detect the presence of all machines and software, and let IT leaders manage their hypervisors independent of the user networks. In other words, the technology must provide a bird’s eye view of the company's entire technology landscape and allow IT administrators to intervene anywhere without hurting business functionality.

Key #5: Remember the tortoise.

Slow and steady wins the race. Virtualization is a process, and success depends on respect for the process. Tackling virtualization slowly and carefully, taking the time to create the right technology and policies, helps ensure an organization will achieve all of the benefits virtualization has to offer.

Key #6: Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Although virtualization does pose unique challenges and requires careful planning, companies need not create different management protocols than those already regulating the physical aspects of the business. The IT and security policies that support virtualization should recognize virtualization as a computing mechanism that runs alongside the physical machines within the office space. There is no need for a divergent management process, just a process that protects the virtual network with the same scrutiny and care given to the rest of the infrastructure.

Keeping these principles in mind will ensure effective virtualization. It’s just a matter of treading carefully and going step by step. Vince Lombardi said it best: “Plan your work and work your plan.” Laying the groundwork, investing in the right tools, and sticking to set policies will enable companies to realize virtualization’s full potential: enhancing business function, increasing efficiency, and bringing virtual and real success.

Rob Juncker is senior director of R&D at VMware where he is responsible for software development and delivery in the SMB Management Solutions business unit. You can contact the author at rjuncker@vmware.com
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