Managing federal IT networks has always been a monumental task. They have traditionally been massive, monolithic systems that require significant resources to maintain.


One would think that this situation would have improved with the advent of virtualization, but the opposite has proved to be true. In many agencies, the rise of the virtual machine has led to massive VM sprawl, which wastes resources and storage capacity because of a lack of oversight and control over VM resource provisioning. Left unattended, VM sprawl can wreak havoc, from degraded network and application performance to network downtime.


Oversized VMs that were provisioned with more resources than necessary can waste storage and compute resources, and so can the overallocation of RAM and idle VMs.


There are two ways to successfully combat VM sprawl. First, administrators should put processes and policies in place to prevent it from happening. Even then, however, VM sprawl may occur, which makes it imperative that administrators also establish a second line of defense that keeps it in check during day-to-day operations.


Let’s take a closer look at strategies that can be implemented:




The best way to get an early handle on VM sprawl is to define specific policies and processes. This first step involves a combination of five different approaches, all designed to stop VM sprawl before it has a chance to spread.


  1. Establish role-based access control policies that clearly articulate who has the authority to create new VMs.
  2. Allocate resources based on actual utilization.
  3. Challenge oversized VM requests.
  4. Create standard VM categories to help filter out abnormal or oversized VM requests.
  5. Implement policies regarding snapshot lifetimes.




Unfortunately, VM sprawl can occur even if these initial defenses are put in place. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon IT teams to be able to maintain a second layer of defense that addresses sprawl during operations.


Consider a scenario in which a project is cancelled or delayed. Or, think about what happens in an environment where storage is incorrectly provisioned.


During operations, it’s important to use an automated approach to virtualization management that employs predictive analysis and reclamation capabilities. Using these solutions, federal IT managers can tap into data on past usage trends to optimize their current and future virtual environments. Through predictive analysis, administrators can apply what they’ve learned from historical analysis to address issues before they occur. They can also continually monitor and evaluate their virtual environments and get alerts when issues arise so problems can be remediated quickly and efficiently.


While each of these strategies by themselves can be effective in controlling VM sprawl, together they create a complete and sound foundation that can greatly improve and simplify virtualization management. They allow administrators to build powerful, yet contained, virtualized networks.


Find the full article on Government Computer News.