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When Virtual Servers create real headaches

According to a recent CIO Insight survey, server and storage virtualization stay at the top of the IT Spending Priority List, seeing the strongest growth in 2009. Sixty-two percent of companies are budgeting for it, and many companies plan to expand the use of virtualization. I've written about the challenges of virtualization management before, with regards to virtual packet loss. Here's another fairly recent example.

We have a client that has virtualized most of their servers recently, one of the key systems that's hosted in VM only is a backup server for their design documents. This is a very design heavy firm that uses CAD software to produce work for their customers, and have a lot of storage as well as backup needs. The firm was facing a shift to a brand new CAD software which has much better functionality. The problem was this new software would produce design files that are 3 or 4 times larger than their existing solution. This move would clearly quadruple storage needs. On top of that, they are already experiencing problems with their backup service, which takes all weekend to run. Needless to say, the IT team was a little nervous about the impending move.

ExtraHop to the rescue. We came in and installed the system, judging by all the RTOs and Zero Windows we saw,  it became immediately apparent that that virtualized backup server was a complete bottleneck. Further investigation showed that there was 7 other VMs running on the same host, all active during the backup process, further slowing things down. What happened was when they decided to virtualize, they just arbitrarily assigned 8 VMs to each physical server, without taking into consideration the load scenarios. This heavily taxed backup system clearly needed its own dedicated server. We made the recommendation and that took care of the problem.

The client was very impressed that the ExtraHop system was an easy install, no instrumentation needed, and they got all that visibility without perturbing the monitored environment.   This gave them the intelligence and confidence they needed to plan for the software change and its downstream impact to their storage and backup systems.

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