Your Survival Guide to a Virtualization Failure

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Virtualization, what would we do without you? The IT industry’s switch to virtualized networks has benefited many organizations, saving time, money, and headaches.

There are many reasons to be thankful for virtualization, but like any technology, it’s not perfect 100 percent of the time. What if something goes wrong? You and your organization face risks and challenges in a virtualized environment, but with some preparation, you can make the transition and maintenance as smooth as possible.

Choosing the Right Solution

One of the best features of virtualization also can be one of its biggest challenges: Variety. The vast array of virtualization solutions means you can be flexible in finding one that fits your business best, and switching to new vendors and tools easily when needed.

But, particularly if you’re new to virtualization or IT in general, the lack of a one-size-fits-all solution can prove daunting. Which components of your environment need to be virtualized? Which vendor should you use? As with most things, start by educating yourself on virtualization technology. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’ll be equipped to choose the solution that best fits your needs, preventing problems down the road.

Training Your Team

Whether you’re a team of one or a team of more, one of the most important strategies during your move to a virtualized environment is preparing and training. Forcing a switch to a virtualized network before your team is ready opens you up to a virtualization failure.

It’s not enough to say, “These systems are being virtualized on this date, please prepare.” If possible, create a core team with members across all departments to oversee the switch. Expect to be involved in key tasks before, during, and after implementation.

Pre-rollout, members of the core team will be involved in the research and selection of vendors, documentation of the current network assets and utilization, and implementation of test systems. Once the team is trained in the new procedures necessary to work in a virtualized environment, they can act as ambassadors to the rest of the company, training their colleagues in turn. During the actual rollout, core team members will be capable of handling a variety of tasks and troubleshooting any issues, ensuring the smoothest changeover possible.

Preparing Security Plans

If you’ve done your homework and educated yourself on virtualization and choosing the right solution for your organization, you know that there are a lot of security issues surrounding the burgeoning technology.

Some of these security concerns tend to be overblown, as is the case with any trending technology, but there also are real considerations to keep in mind. As many virtualization pros know, moving to a dynamic, multilayered, complex environment opens you up to new security risks requiring new considerations. Preparing yourself and your environment for these risks is a key part of avoiding a virtualization failure.

Here are some factors to prepare for:

  • Design and deployment. Create a plan for your new virtualized network infrastructure, including separation of development, test, and production assets. Plan for who has access to what. Consider security protocols for virtual machines just like you would physical servers.
  • Sprawl. Because you’ve taken the time to learn and plan, you’re likely not creating virtual machines willy-nilly and forgetting them on the network. Even so, it is easy to let your virtual environment sprawl. Establish a change management process that accounts for what is currently being used and what’s not, as well as what’s needed. Which leads us to…
  • Patching and updates. As much as you control for sprawl, the ease and flexibility of virtual solutions means that some sprawl will happen. Unfortunately, that also leads to vulnerabilities. Plan for lifecycle management policies and procedures so nothing gets left behind in terms of patching and updates.

These are just a few security considerations for virtualization. Be sure to create a robust plan that fits your organization, because just like virtualization itself, security is not one size fits all.

Managing Solutions Post-Implementation

Congratulations, you made it through implementation successfully!

While we hate to be the bearer of bad news, it’s important to know that you’re not immune from failure once you’ve gone through the transition to virtualization. Proper management and administration of your new virtualized networks and assets is complex and may require a more proactive approach than in your previous configuration. Make sure you have enough resources, both in terms of people and technology, to manage your virtualized environment effectively.

Making the switch to virtualization is not a simple process. But it is possible to complete the switch smoothly and effectively, with a little preparation — ensuring you choose the right solution, preparing your core team, and putting security protocols in place early on. Developing proactive management procedures sets you up for ongoing success.

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