Controls Key in Virtualization Frenzy: Study

Virtualization software improves server data availability, reduces an organization’s datacenter footprint and makes it easier to recovery data in the event of a disaster, but, according to a new study, it can cause big problems for an organization that doesn’t implement strong operational controls throughout the process.

The study, conducting by leading virtualization software vendor VMware and CA, interviewed 15 executives and collected post-implementation data from 323 different IT organizations.

The conclusions: project managers need to develop and implement strong host access and configuration controls from the beginning and must employ a “trust but verify” strategy for change process and configuration compliance.

“The use of virtualization in production does change required operating procedures and controls in order to effectively manage operational risk,” the study found. “Those organizations with a strong foundation of process controls and best practices produces may only need to modify controls in a few areas to pursue consolidation objectives.”

Desktop virtualization software lets companies manage multiple desktop images running on virtual and physical servers in their datacenters. It takes all the computing required for an organization’s desktops, laptops and thin clients off the hard drive on the edge of the network to virtual servers where administrators can manage hardware upgrades, monitor application use and secure data access from one central location.

VMware (NYSE: VMW) remains the leader in server virtualization with 50 percent market share while Citrix Systems holds an edge in desktop virtualization sales (19 percent), according to the latest data collected by Information Technology Intelligence Corp (ITIC), while Microsoft continues to close the gap in both markets.

Seventy-two percent of executives surveyed for the CA/VMware study said they were “aggressively” virtualizing their production servers and 58 percent acknowledged halting their implementations to improve operating procedures.

The survey found that 19 percent of companies are pursuing server consolidation objectives. Twenty-two percent are gunning for high availability and disaster recovery objectives and another 31 percent are focused on dynamic resource optimization objectives.

The report details a total of 36 recommended practices for companies at all stages of virtualization deployment maturity.

“Virtualizing business critical systems without operational creates unacceptable risk,” the report warned.

Along with virtual sprawl—the organizational proclivity for virtualizing anything and everything—can cause IT managers to lose track of their virtual resources and essentially erase all the benefits of consolidating in the first place.

Also, security experts warn, adding the hypervisor software layer gives would-be hackers another avenue for attack but those risks can also be mitigated with a strong process controls and regular system audits.

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