Archive for category Management

The State of Microsoft Virtual Server (MSVS)

When new technology comes out, IT people often tend to discard the old (or, sometimes, begrudgingly live with it).  Sometimes, however, older solutions are perfectly useful for certain purposes.  I recently wrote an article for TechTarget’s web site that focuses on the superceded-but-still-relevant Microsoft Virtual Server.  From the article’s introduction:

We techies tend to look forward to new technology with good reason. In most cases, new products and services improve upon old technology. But migration in production environments can be slow. So what about existing technology? A good case in point is Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 (MSVS). MSVS is available for free and is a perfectly viable option for many environments. In this tip, I’ll look at when, where and why you might want to use MSVS rather than its newer replacement, Hyper-V.

You can read the entire article for free: See Microsoft Virtual Server still viable management option.

Webcast: Managing VM Sprawl

I recent recorded a webcast, sponsored by Computer Associates (CA), titled Managing Virtual Machine Sprawl: Best Practices.  From the abstract for the presentation:

Virtual Machine (VM) Sprawl is an issue that is common with organizations that have dipped their toes in virtualization. It can cause issues with system management, security, resource optimization and lack of IT control, as well as workload management including software, hardware and services.

Virtualization expert Anil Desai reviews the definition of VM sprawl including impacts ad challenges, best practices for end-to-end management and centralizing administration and benefits of workload automation.

The free webcast is an overall description of the many different causes and effects of the rapid proliferation of unmanaged VMs and some suggestions on how IT departments can gain (or regain) control over their environments.

Webcast: Virtualization Backups – Products and Processes

My webcast, Options for backup in Microsoft virtualization platforms: Best of products and processes, sponsored by Dell, Inc. is now available for free download (registration is required).  Here’s the abstract:

Virtualization expert Anil Desai explores backup products and capabilities in Microsoft virtual environments. This webcast will look at Windows-based features and options for performing backups, as well as the capabilities of other products such as Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager.

Users of Microsoft Virtual Server and the upcoming Hyper-V platform have several different approaches for protecting their virtual machines. This webcast will look at Windows-based features and options for performing backups, as well as the capabilities of other products such as Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager. The presentation will help attendees determine which backup method is most appropriate for each type of workload, and their options for meeting those requirements.

Optimizing Hyper-V Performance

If you’re in touch with your geeky side, there’s a good chance that you’re always looking for ways to squeeze more performance out of your IT investments.  This is especially true for situations that involve virtualization, where some of the primary motivation is reducing costs through server consolidation. 

I have recently written two articles for that cover the  topic of monitoring and optimizing your VMs that are hosted on Microsoft Hyper-V.  Some might be obvious, but others are somewhat cleverly-disguised.  The first article, Optimizing Hyper-V performance: Monitoring tips focuses on ways in which you can make sure your host servers and VMs are running smoothly.  From the introduction:

How can you be sure whether your Hyper-V host servers and virtual machines (VMs) have been optimally configured? Installing and enabling Microsoft Hyper-V and creating VMs is a fairly straightforward process; but the techie tendencies in all of us seems to nag the question "Isn’t there something more I should do to improve performance?" This tip targets system administrators who have deployed Hyper-V and want to ensure that they’ve made the most of host servers and VMs.

The second article, Optimizing Hyper-V performance: Advanced fine-tuning provides details on Integration Services, synthetic vs. emulated drivers, and ways in which you can improve overall performance of storage and network resources.

I hope these articles will serve as a useful checklist for Hyper-V management.  If you have any further suggestions, feel free to leave them as comments here or on

Managing Virtualization: The Art of War

ArtOfWarMy latest article for Virtual Strategy Magazine is now available for free online.  This one covers some best practices and suggestions for keeping tracking of VMs and keeping IT departments in control of all of their physical and virtual systems.  From the introduction to Managing Virtualization: The Art of War:

"The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations." – David Friedman

Make no mistakes, my friends. Virtualization technology is serious business. The stakes are high and the stakeholders are highly-motivated. War is a dirty word, and we did not choose this situation. However, today, we are called upon to defend ourselves against a vicious and unforeseen onslaught of virtual machines. They have attacked from every direction, and we now find ourselves in the middle of a battle for control. These once gentle automatons now threaten our very way of life within the IT department. Their unmanaged proliferation must be stopped here and now.

This will not be an easy fight, so heed these words carefully. The fate of entire data centers hangs in the balance, and mismanagement of one or a few VMs could tip the balance in favor of the enemy. But rest assured, my friends: There is hope, if only we allow cooler heads to prevail. Batten down the hatches, up the irons, release the Jolt! Cola, and prepare for Managing Virtualization: The Art of War.

Microsoft Hyper-V Guide

If you’re having trouble making sense of Microsoft’s Hyper-V and would like to get up and running quickly, TechTarget’s has a handy resource.  The Microsoft Hyper-V Guide provides a handy overview and index to other articles and screencasts (including several written by me).  From the introduction to the Guide:

Hyper-V is the latest virtualization product from Microsoft. The new hypervisor platform works with Windows Server 2008 to create and manage a virtual infrastructure. As with any virtualization platform, Hyper-V makes for a more efficient data center, maximizing resources and reducing costs.

Hyper-V consists of a 64-bit hypervisor that can run 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines concurrently. Hyper-V virtualization works with single and multi-processor virtual machines and includes tools such as snapshots, which capture the state of a running virtual machine.

Hypervisor-based virtualization with Microsoft’s newest offering promises more efficient virtual machine hosting as well, with new "synthetic" drivers.

For more information on Hyper-V, consult the resources in this introductory guide.

Also, keep a look out for many other articles by me and other writers on the site!  A good way to keep up is to sign up for the site’s newsletter.

The Case Against Desktop Virtualization

Virtual Strategy Magazine has recently published my article, The Case Against Desktop Virtualization.  From the introduction to the article:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: You are being called upon to partake in one of the most important duties of an IT professional.  You will be asked to objectively evaluate claims and determine whether a relatively new development in virtualization technology – desktop virtualization – is a valid and useful solution for your environment.  You have already heard many strong arguments for desktop virtualization from much of the industry.  You will now hear from the other side: A discussion of how you can gain many of the benefits of virtualization without moving desktop computing to the confines of the data center.

OK, all drama aside, I should be clear about the point of this article.  My goal is not to convince you that desktop virtualization is not a good idea.  Rather, I’d like to provide some counter-point to a lot of the hype that we have been hearing lately.  Specifically, I’ll point out how many of the problems that desktop virtualization is designed to solve can be addressed in other ways.  The goal for you, the reader, is to determine which of these is the best way to solve these problems.  Order in the court!

Perhaps it’s a bit too dramatic, but I think it presents a good case, overall.  Feel free to leave your pleas and judgments here.

Understanding Hyper-V Snapshots

Microsoft’s Hyper-V includes a new model for creating point-in-time views of your VMs and for quickly and easily rolling back to them.  The new architecture is much improved over the "undo disks" model used by Microsoft Virtual Server and Virtual PC.  My article, Taking Snapshots with Hyper-V explains the details.  From the introduction:

Have you ever wished you could go back in time and remember how your virtual machines (VMs) used to look? You know, like before you installed that pre-production beta patch on a mission-critical application? Or before you accidentally overwrote the passwords in a login table by leaving off the WHERE clause of an SQL UPDATE statement?

As the father of more VMs than I can count, I often feel the same way. Fortunately, Microsoft’s Hyper-V provides a useful method of creating and applying point-in-time views of the status of your VMs: the aptly-titled snapshots feature. This easy-to-use tool can create VM snapshots from the Hyper-V Management Console.

See the full article for an in-depth discussion of the benefits of snapshots and how you can use them to help manage your VMs.

Using System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM)

It’s clear that many organizations are looking for solutions to managing their virtualization environments.  Numerous vendors have entered this market, and leading enterprise management vendors have added virtualization support to their products.  Microsoft’s entry – System Center Virtual Machine Manager – helps to address some of the most common problems related to deploying and managing VMs.  While there are certainly limitations in the first version of the product, Microsoft will soon be adding supporting for VMware. 

I recently wrote an article on SCVMM for  From the introduction:

Is it really possible to have too much of a good thing? When it comes to virtual machines (VMs), that often seems to be the case. More is not necessarily better from the standpoint of systems administration. The issue of VM sprawl – the rapid proliferation of virtual machines in a production environment – can present a challenge. Apart from the larger number of operating systems and application stacks to manage, the entire process of IT systems management can be upended.

For most IT departments, automation is a necessity for managing more than a few systems, whether physical or virtual. In this tip, I will offer a solution: Microsoft’s System Center application suite. While this software package is only one option, I’ll use it to illustrate how automation can help resolve real issues.

You can access the entire article, Managing virtual machines with Microsoft System Center for free online.

RunAs Radio: Virtualization / Hyper-V Discussion

Earlier this morning, I had the privilege of chatting with Richard Campbell and Greg Hughes, hosts of RunAs Radio.  The discussion focused on Microsoft’s Hyper-V, and the importance of virtualization management/automation.  It’s a fairly fast-paced conversation and is around 30 minutes long.  The show will be available shortly (and for free) at

Virtual Strategy Magazine: Optimizing Virtualization Performance

M article, Empire Management, Episode 2: Optimizing Virtualization Performance, is now available on the Virtual Strategy Magazine web site.  From the article’s introduction:

Whether your primary job function is more like that of Han Solo – avoiding Imperial pursuit forces – or that of Darth Vader (doing said pursuing), you know that performance is important.  Part of every IT manager’s mission is to squeeze as much potential performance out of existing investments as possible.  While your data center might resemble a massive Death Star, it’s important that it’s individual components run as smoothly as, say, a TIE Fighter.

In my previous article in this series, Empire Management 101, I focused on topics related to how you can monitor the performance of your virtualization host servers and the VMs that they support.  In this article, I’m going to focus on the application of this information – how you can use performance details to make better decisions about how to deploy and distribute your VMs.

Don’t let all the Star Wars references fool you – the article does include some important technical recommendations for monitoring, managing, and optimizing virtualization performance.  May the Force be with you!

Advanced NAS Features for Virtualization Article

I recently wrote an article on using Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices for supporting virtualization.  You can find the article, Using advanced NAS features in virtualization at SearchServerVirtualization.  From the article’s introduction:

When it comes to determining the type of storage to deploy, are you a storage-technology snob? Or do you consider network-attached storage (NAS) devices as part of your storage strategy?

There’s clearly a perception among some systems administrators that high-end solutions such as Fibre Channel-based SANs provide the better performance. Or they might prefer products based on iSCSI, which provide some of the same benefits such as block-level disk I/O. Plus, iSCSI-based products run over existing copper-based Ethernet connections instead of requiring a much more expensive fiber optic infrastructure, making them even more attractive to admins.

So where does this leave the tried and true NAS device? While newer technologies get most of the attention, modern NAS devices provide many new features, including ones that simplify virtualization and support larger numbers of virtual machines (VMs). How these advanced features benefit virtualization will be the focus of this tip.

Personally, I think NAS solutions are great for organizations of all sizes.  They’re certainly far more cost effective than Fibre Channel SANs and work well with solutions that don’t need block-level I/O.

Read the full article to learn about these advanced features and to find out if or how NAS devices can help alleviate potential storage-related issues for your virtual infrastructure.

WebCast: Controlling VM Sprawl

I recently recorded a live WebCast titled Virtualization: Best Practices for Preventing VM Sprawl.  The presentation walks through some recommendations for gaining (or regaining) control in environments where IT departments are having a hard time managing hundreds or dozens of VMs.  Here’s the abstract:

Industry experts agree that implementing virtualization without good management is more dangerous than not using virtualization in the first place. While organizations and IT staff do see the many benefits of implementing virtualization, the challenge of controlling virtual infrastructures is quickly rising as a top management priority. According to a Gartner survey, Virtual Machine (VM) "sprawl" is a major concern that appears to lack a comprehensive solution (Virtualization Needs and Trends, Cameron Haight, 29 August 2007).

This webinar will look at sources of VM sprawl and investigate the dangers inherent in a sprawl condition. It will focus on best practices for preventing VM sprawl and for establishing and maintaining control of virtualized environments.

The presenter, Anil Desai, draws on his past experience as a data center manager who has successfully managed environments of thousands of virtual machines as well as his books on this subject to outline a series of best practices aimed at maintaining control of your virtual machines, no matter how many you have.

The WebCast was sponsored by Embotics, and includes information about their V-Commander product, which helps manage VMs.  I hope you find the content to be useful!

Free P2V Backup/DR Tutorial

Virtualization technology provides a lot of promise related to implementing backups and  managing disaster recovery environments.  For example, since VMs are self-contained, they can be easily moved or copied to other servers.  Administrators can use a variety of methods to keep multiple VMs synchronized (see my Backup / DR category for some articles on the topic).  But, in the real world, the problem becomes implementation.  With most virtualization platforms, you’ll either need to invest in additional (and often, costly) tools, or you’ll need to roll your own.

For the latter approach, Frane Borozan has created a physical2virtual.backup tutorial that walks through the major steps of setting up backups and DR for VMware environments.  From the site’s home page:

I will here describe whole process of implementation of virtual servers into your current network infrastructure. With virtualization you will get virtual failover servers and you will have fresh replica of all of your important data, so in case main servers failure you will have fast disaster recovery plan that just works. Of course you can have clusters in your network infrastructure but what is the cost of managing clusters and paying licenses for that expensive kind on in stable software.

There are always savings into hardware and power consumption, imagine now you need to have one physical for every server you own if you want to have good disaster recovery plan, with this you can have dozen of backups on the same server and you will run only backup that is needed in case of the disaster.

He also provides scripts and batch file commands for automating the process (a huge time-saver for those that want to use this approach).  Perhaps the best thing about the Tutorial is that it’s really practical.  It doesn’t assume you’ll be making multi-million-dollar investments in proprietary hardware and software.  Rather, it helps you utilize your standard infrastructure – multi-homed servers and Gb Ethernet switches. 

Good luck, and feel free to leave comments if you have any feedback on the approach!

Evaluating Virtualization Management Solutions: Free eBook Chapter

The tenth and final chapter of my eBook, the Definitive Guide to Virtual Platform Management is now available for free download (registration is required).  The complete eBook, available as a single PDF, should be available sometime in the near future.  The chapter focuses on details that IT professionals should keep in mind when looking for tools to manage virtualization.  From the introduction:

IT organizations are often aware of the fact that costs associated with managing new technology can far outweigh the initial deployment costs. Virtualization is no exception. Although the ability to run multiple isolated workloads on the same hardware can provide immediate cost savings and benefits throughout the environment, the associated administration tasks involve significant time and effort.

Throughout the previous chapters, I have covered a wide array of practices and recommendations for gaining and retaining control over virtualized environments. The primary challenge is that properly managing an environment that contains dozens (if not hundreds) of virtual machines can be very difficult. When these tasks are performed manually, IT organizations must absorb significant costs.

Fortunately, there’s a better way—through the use of virtualization-aware enterprise automation solutions much of the work can be simplified or even eliminated. With the proliferation of virtual machine technology, literally dozens of products are available for meeting these needs. The focus of this chapter is on presenting factors that should be considered when evaluating these solutions. I’ll present details related to the overall goals of virtualization management, along with specific features IT organizations should look for in products that will help manage their mixed virtual and physical infrastructures.

I hope readers find the entire guide to be useful.  Feel free to leave questions and comments here.