Planning a virtualisation deployment

By Eric Seibert
Friday, 19 June, 2009

If you don't divide your virtualisation deployment project into manageable phases, it can become too daunting a prospect to even begin. In this article on virtual deployment project phases, we outline how to build and configure a virtualised environment and the critical caveats to prevent complex and time-consuming rework later on.

Building your virtual environment
In virtual deployment projects, the building stage is one of the most exciting because you can finally see your virtual environment take shape and materialise. But before you begin, make sure you are prepared and fully understand the various steps involved. It's critical to understand, for example, that the various components of a virtual environment need to be installed in a particular sequence. You should also prepare everything you need to install and configure these components and understand the prerequisites for each component. And while reading documentation can be onerous and tiresome, this information ensures that you install and configure items correctly and don't miss important steps. In addition, read the release notes for the version of the virtualisation technology that you install because many important known issues and preparation steps are documented there.

In addition, practice the installation of software components a few times before installing them in a production environment, which enables you to gain experience and test the various configuration options that are part of the installation. Once you have your installation process down pat, document it so that all hosts are consistent and so that others who install hosts in your environment choose the same options.

Configuring your virtual environment
Once your environment is built, it's time to configure it to prepare it for your virtual machines (VMs). Networking and storage are typically the biggest and most important configuration steps, but there are also many small steps that you should configure properly. When configuring a network, understand your requirements and environment beforehand. It's a good idea to consult with your network group to ensure that it understands the needs of your host servers when connecting them to a physical network. It is common to use 802.1Q virtual LAN (or VLAN) tagging with virtual hosts because this enables you to use multiple VLANS on a single physical network interface card (NIC). You may also want to involve your security group, which may have concerns about how a host connects to the network. Ensure that both groups have a firm grasp of how virtual hosts integrate with the environment; some of the traditional concepts don't work well with virtual hosts.

Configuring storage is a task that you want to get right the first time. It can be difficult and time-consuming to change storage configurations after they have been established. If you make the wrong choices when configuring storage, they can undermine host and VM performance. So take time to understand your requirements, and ensure that you thoroughly understand your options before configuring storage on your hosts.

Further, Fibre Channel storage can be complicated to configure and usually involves working with a storage area network (SAN) administrator to properly set up host servers. Proper preparation is the key for proper configuration, and you should work closely with SAN administrators to ensure that they understand your needs and properly configure logical unit numbers, or LUNs.

When configuring a virtualised environment, the bottom line is to make sure you thoroughly understand what you are trying to configure, because some configuration choices are very difficult to change later without disrupting your environment.

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