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Virtualisation Project: Get The Most and Avoid These Common Mistakes

Experts believe that virtualisation is the new direction in the IT world. Back in 2013, Gartner predicted Software Defined Anything (SDx) to be one of the next IT trends. It summarises the growing market momentum for improved standards for infrastructure programmability and data centre interoperability pushed by automation inherent to cloud computing, development and operations and fast infrastructure provisioning.

Fast forward two years, vendors of Software Defined Networking (SDN), Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC), Software Defined Storage (SDS) and Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI) technologies are all trying to lead the path in their respective areas, while setting up SDx initiatives at the same time.

Maik Straube, ASI Solutions’ Brocade Distinguished Architect, says companies today should absolutely move towards Software Defined Anything (SDx). In fact, most companies operating a self-managed infrastructure have some shares with SDx already.

“Server virtualisation would be an example for this, as it is Software Defined Data Centre – virtual machines are quite common technology nowadays. In regard to the latest developments, I’d say businesses would most benefit these days from Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV), which is part of SDN,” he says.

Straube believes that replacing hardware with software based systems with existing resources decreases operational expenses and operating expenditure (OPEX). Other benefits include using existing resources more efficiently to meet current and future requirements; the automation of IT work processes, self-service for users, self-service for customers, much shorter processing times, and much less error affected, among other things.

Every business will benefit from the Software Defined deployment. According to Straube, small businesses would decrease their hardware and probably only employ a single admin, who then “would be able to administer the whole infrastructure by himself, as pretty much everything is getting managed by software. The bigger players, on the other hand, will decrease their IT team through automated processes, decrease complexity, decrease hardware and increase software.”

The benefits are all well and good but many IT managers are still getting the hang of virtualisation. According to Brocade, IT managers are employing virtualisation in only the most straightforward ways, which leaves their network vulnerable to attack. In most organisations, legacy systems in place cannot support business needs today or in the future. “Only by building a solution that provides the agility, security and access your organisation needs, you can ensure goals are met while reducing your exposure to security threats, compliance, and market risk.”

A new approach is definitely needed. “You need a new Internet Procotol (IP), built on transitional technologies brought together to provide an infrastructure that is agile, affordable and automated.”

Going virtual, however, has risks. Straube believes that the main risk would be that “the smart human brain is going to be less involved in operational decision making”.

Brocade also warns companies of some of the common implementation mistakes of enterprise virtualisation. One is leaving the network “unsegmented”. Virtualisation introduces a new piece of software to the IT infrastructure – the hypervisor or virtual machine manager. Like with any new software, it comes with potential risks. “It is important for companies to develop a security strategy that addresses the risks associated with the hypervisor itself, particularly as it interacts with the network.” Another common mistake is forgetting to virtualise the network as part of the disaster recovery plan. Virtualisation adds a great technology to help deal with disaster recovery. “Some hypervisors support snapshots and automatic migration of virtual machines from one physical system to another, making it far easier to move a data centre’s-worth of infrastructure from one location to another, nearly instantaneously, in the event of a disaster,” according to Brocade.

However, some IT managers focus their disaster planning efforts on the servers and applications and assume that the network will provide the set of services they need to keep users connected. And when it comes to basic L2/L3 infrastructure such as switching and routing, IT managers need to provision connectivity to both primary and backup locations.

Like with any endeavor, organisations thinking of moving forward with SDx should consider plan their migration well. For one, Straube said they should work closely with a Systems Integrator with a strong footprint in this field of technology. “SDx is not the solution for every IT issue. By now it simply must fit the requirements and these need to get explored and discussed between the customer and their IT supporting partner,” says Straube.

To get the most of virtualisation projects and to avoid the common mistakes, Brocade has this checklist to help companies:

  • Look for unsegmented networks that might be at risk from virtualisation and use virtualisation tools to segment them.
  • Look at the networking functions associated with severs you plan to virtualise and virtualise them together.
  • Consider networking functions such as routing, firewalls, and VPN as part of branch virtualisation projects. Putting them on the same hardware as other applications will get you a long way toward “branch in a box”.
  • Use virtualisation to include network functions in disaster recovery plans, so that when there’s a disaster, your routing, firewall, and VPN will come back online along with the rest of your computing resources.

For more info, download the Sorting Through Your Network Complexity Infographic and if you need any help extra help, get in touch with our expert team! You can call, email us or fill in this form.

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