Deployments with Virtualization

In my last article I introduced the popular method of joining hardware and operating system virtualization to create a virtual machine which can run most operating systems. The benefits of this pairing are numerous, while some were discussed previously, I will now introduce a feature that those in technology would grow to love if they were to use it: VM and OS deployments. The simplicity and flexibility of virtual system deployment provides a powerful resource for system administrators and integrators. This article will cover several methods of VM and OS deployments and the strengths of each method.

The plain old classic manual process is for those that are making their first VM/OS, want to make a new configuration or just want to go the slowest route to maximize configuration time. Even though this is usually the longest method of creating a new virtual system it is still a simple process with most virtualization solutions. The manual process come in three steps: create and configure the VM (the virtualized hardware), install the operating system, and configure the operating system. Flexibility and complete control over all aspects of creation are the primary benefits. Usually this method would be used to create the first few VM/OS in an environment or at an organization where every VM/OS is different.

Once there is a VM/OS in a virtual environment it is possible to easily create a copy of the virtual system. Because most organizations standardize on a small number of hardware and operating system configurations it is quite feasible to create a handful of VM/OS's that could become the parent of hundreds or thousands of child virtual systems. Of course if an organization has not standardized on hardware and operating systems, going virtual could allow them to do so in addition to gaining all the other benefits of virtualization.

Copying a parent VM/OS is a common type of virtual system deployment. A parent VM/OS is created using the manual process and the OS will typically have standard software, such as antivirus and monitoring services installed, along with OS security policies and patches. Doing so allows to rapidly deploy new virtual systems while focusing solely on the unique aspects of the new VM/OS, such as the applications or services it will be providing like a database or web platform. Additional benefits of creating new virtual systems from a parent VM/OS is that administrators know all of the child VM/OS will be in a consistent state, reducing the chance of human error, and the base parent VM/OS can be used to create more specific parent virtual systems.

Having multiple custom parent VM/OS's is beneficial for organizations that have a need for multiple systems to have like hardware, OS, software and similar configurations. This method of deployment has all of the benefits of parent VM/OS's in addition to rapidly being able to deploy new systems based on their roles. Now when requests come in for new systems from a department an administration can rapidly and reliably provide those new resources to their customers. Examples of multiple parents in use include being able to deploy out new virtual systems for a web server farm as the business grows or adding more horsepower to processing systems during tax season.

With additional configuration of a virtualized environment it is possible, and beneficial, to be able to automate the deployment of new VM/OS's based on a parent VM/OS. Being able to deploy a system automatically allows administrators to spend more time in developing and supporting an organization without having to perform repetitive activities that normally take up a large amount of time. Automatic deployment is generally configured to occur when a condition, such as time, traffic loads or resource constraints are reached. Examples of such triggers are adding new systems to a server farm on January 1st to April 16th, when a sales application has a certain number of users or if a storage system nears capacity.

The last method of virtualized system deployment is by using network based imaging. With this method a VM is created, either automatically or manually, and then imaging software is used through the network to install the image on the VM. The end result is still the same as all of the previously mentioned methods, but the method of OS deployment is changed. Using network based OS deployment with a VM is beneficial in environments where there is a mixture of physical and virtual systems. Doing so allows for the same images to be used on both types of hardware and administrators do not have to use (or learn) an additional interface to deploy an OS. Additionally, for environments that are just beginning to use virtual solutions, they can continue to use their already tried and true golden OS images and method of deployment.

All of these reasons make a favorite capability of virtualization the methods of deployment for a new VM/OS. The new found friendship between system administrators and virtualization also directly benefit the organization that they support by reducing maintenance overhead, reducing tedious and repetitive operations and by increasing consistency. Virtual deployment features alone are a fantastic reason to give virtualization a try. Coupled with the many other features and benefits, virtualization should be an active topic in any organization.

*Disclaimer for the masses*
I purposely did not name vendors or use specific trademarked terms so that I could discuss hardware and OS virtualization deployments as a broad topic. This means that though everything mentioned above is possible to perform, not all virtualization solutions can do them. Do your research before purchase or use. I can only be held responsible for positive outcomes of reading this article. If a bad decision is made, go talk to, blame and hold responsible yourself. The author's name is not "Yourself."

Let me know how you deploy. Find my contact details on the right.

Written by Eric Wamsley
Posted: January 8th, 2012 1:21pm
Topic: virtualization
Tags: virtualization,

 ©Eric Wamsley - ewams.net