Virtualization: Tips and tricks to optimize your virtualized infrastructure – VM Lifecycle

Have we just noticed that our infrastructure is not optimized and that oversized, undersized and unnecessary VMs are running in the infrastructure? Here are some tips to make your infrastructure more efficient: reducing the use of resources improving the performance and decreasing the costs.

Have you put in place a complete VM lifecycle management?

When we talk about lifecycle management we talk about the complete cycle of a VM and not just the creation of the VM. The lifecycle of a VM starts with the creation phase, the configuration of the VM and the allocation of virtual resources, followed by the exploitation and monitoring phase of the VM (its use and status) and concluded by the elimination phase of the VM and the release of virtual resources.

Generally, and thanks to virtualization, organizations are very good at the first phase of the lifecycle “the creation of the VM”, proof of this is the constant increase in the number of VMs in their infrastructures. However, the following steps of the lifecycle are usually ignored until performance problems start to increase.

In a logic of good management and best practices, the correct control of the park of VMs must include a proper lifecycle monitoring strategy from the creation until the deletion of the VMs, that allows to identify VMs that need to be resized (reducing or adding resources) during their exploitation phase, or deleted (releasing their virtual resources) in the final phase. (However, in reality this is not the case, as organizations used to forget about the lifecycle or in other cases because they do not know what it means for its virtualization.)

Here are some tips to help you to go through the three phases in the lifecycle of the VM.

The 3 phases:

Phase 1: Creating the VMs

Regarding the creation phase of VM, sometimes the development teams and/or the editors make unreasonable demands, with very largely oversized requirements (“belt and braces” requirements: we do not know what we need, so we ask for more, just in case).

Tip 1: restrict from the beginning the allocation of resources to VMs. It is always easier to add that to remove resources (the feeling of “take back is steal”,). If ever during the first days of life of the VM, performance problems are noted, it is always possible to add resources and thus have an allocation adapted to the VM.

In parallel, do not forget to take note of the following information: creation date, for which project, the owner of the VM, end date (in the case of POC: proof of concept), and any other information that allows to understand the lifecycle and use of the VM (seasonality of VM, dependency, environment, etc.). This information will be useful for the following 2 phases.

DC Scope and its VM Synthesis View allows to centralize all this information effortless

Phase 2: Resizing VMs

Do not wait until the lack of resources in your infrastructure to resize the VMs. VMs well sized mean a better usage of resources and it translates in a best comprehension of the real capacities of the infrastructure. The cherry on the top of the cake is that the VMs behave better (subject of an upcoming article: “too much VCPU less performance”).

Tip 2: we advise our clients to schedule an optimization day (or even only a few hours) every quarter with the aim to resize and delete VMs.

In contrast to the vCenter which aggregates the information of your infrastructure in daily periods, DC Scope keeps on its own database the information per minute on all VMware counters, so there is no loss of information. This fluidity over the time allows DC Scope to make precise recommendations by considering all particularities of the VM, as the recommendations are not based only on averages, but also considering peaks.

Tip 3: we also recommend to keep an historical of the lifecycle of the VM which log all the changes in the resources allocated to the VM, as well as changes on its status such as change of servers, clusters, etc. DC Scope logs automatically any change in the VMs and the VM Synthesis View shows easily the historical changes of VMs.

Phase 3: Removing VMs.

It is always tricky to delete VMs (unless you are very well organized or you have DC Scope running in your infrastructure ;)).

For this final step, the information logged in the creation phase such as the owner of the VM and the expected deletion date of the VM are fundamental. In fact, it is the owner of the VM who determines whether a VM has completed its lifecycle according to the initial deletion date and is he who will define whether the VM can be deleted or not.

Before the final deletion of VMs, some organizations prefer to shut down these VM for a short period of time. It is extremely important to take note of this information, as it could be really easy to forget the final deletion of the VMs. We regularly see the unhealthy tendency to accumulate unused or turned off VMs. The optimization day should also be an opportunity to finally delete these VMs.

It is extremely hard to identify whether a VM is not being used as there is always activity reported from the VM which does not correspond to the real use of the VM. Such activities are proper activities of the virtualization as antivirus, backup operations, VMware activity, etc. DC Scope has a unique analysis tool to identify VMs that report very little use (Idle) and allows to classify them VMs automatically.

In addition to the management of the lifecycle of VMs, there are other axes to optimize virtualized infrastructures… and we will see them in future posts.

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