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How to get more out of your virtualized and cloud environments

Brandon Butler | Dec. 2, 2014
Matt Eastwood, general manager of IDC's enterprise platform group estimates the typical enterprise server runs 10 to 12 virtual machines today at about 30% to 40% capacity but an optimal server utilization rate is usually around 60% to 70%.

While many server utilization tools look primarily at compute resources, John Blumenthal, co-founder of startup CloudPhysics, says it's important to look at the entire IT environment. His company's product is a cloud-based SaaS service that analyzes usage across everything from the CPU to memory, networking and storage.

John Blumenthal, co-founder of CloudPhysics

He says the biggest cause of inefficiency is what he calls death by a thousand cuts. What impact will adding another server have on the environment? Why are system response times slowing? How will this change impact the broader environment? "The nature of the problem is insidious," he says. "It's not one giant boogey-man staring you in the face. It's not being able to see the consequences of an action, and not being able to figure out what the right course of action is to take." CloudPhysics says many customers see up to 3.5 TBs of storage freed up when initially deploying its tool.

Reaching peak efficiency may mean spilling workloads over to public cloud resources, an alternative being examined by companies such as

To the cloud

Some of Autotrader's 200 ESX hosts in its development zone are running as many as 140 VMs; production hosts run much fewer. But like many organizations, is exploring how it can use public cloud resources to supplement what it hosts internally.

Chris Nakagaki, senior systems engineer in the cloud infrastructure team likes the idea of being able to migrate workloads into VMware's vCloud Air public cloud with minimal changes, and the ability to federate across multiple VMware public cloud partner vendors if needed. But moving to the public cloud has its own set of efficiency challenges too; the public cloud can be a complicated place.

Vendors like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have dozens of types of virtual machines to choose from, and resources change on the fly and are paid for by the minute or hour. You can save significantly, for example, if you spin down resources when they're no longer required.

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong says once a certain threshold of usage is reached in the public cloud, it's worth exploring tools to manage cloud usage and optimize spending, noting that that threshold will be different depending on company size. Cloudyn and Cloud Cruiser each have tools that can help organizations determine when to use on-demand versus reserved instance pricing in Amazon Web Service's cloud and what the right VM instance size is for a workload. A tool like Cloud Cruiser will monitor a hybrid environment, recommending when to run a workload in a private cloud compared to using a public cloud. Cloudyn says that it can help AWS customers who spend $10,000 recoup up to one-third of their public cloud spend by optimizing their usage.

Those tools are similar to the on premise ones from Cirba and VMTurbo. Harzog estimates that any customer who is managing more than 50 VMs can likely find efficiencies of between one-third one-half by using those.


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