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Day 8 - Virtual

Level 16

For me, "virtual" is a buzzword being used to sell me the idea that things are simple and easy to configure.

Many years ago, networking people achieved some virtualization by running VLANs in order to segregate traffic through their switches, saving money from having to build separate layer-2 infrastructures. Today, we are facing the challenge of deeper network virtualization: I have physical routers running several virtual routers with many virtual routing instances with hundreds of virtual switches, all combining to support thousands of virtual LANs. In the heart of these virtual networks, we have firewalls and other security devices all with their own virtual contexts and configuration.

Some challenges simply come from scale: show arp can return tens of thousands of rows, but you have to use just the right SNMP community to reach the right context to look at the routing table you want. Polling may not even complete in a "reasonable" time.

But other challenges come from complexity. How do I know that the subnet has been deployed properly with the right routing, firewall rules, and DHCP configuration? Why does it take several people to deploy a new subnet into a virtualized network? Why can’t one simply “vmotion” a subnet from building to another (in a different city) and have it just work?

What are your challenges as the whole infrastructure stack becomes more nebulous, complex, and virtual?

Level 14

It is getting more and more difficult to manage a virtual environment. We have gone from a one to one device correlation to a new dynamic of one to infinity. The complexity is derived from the interdependence of the pieces. Problem resolution is no longer look for red or amber lights, but evaluating the evidence before you with tools that can keep pace. The game has changed from checkers to chess and sometimes you can't even see the board.

I remember when Citrix came out and i was working on my certifications for Citrix Metaframe and Winframe, yes that long time ago.  Then as i wanted companies coming out with the new virtualization i thought well to me Citrix, terminal server etc. and even a mainframe was a similar yet different platform, but you really were working on a different server with a presented desktop running applications sometimes a half world away and never knew the difference. 

The virtual world is upon us, everything from cloud to on premise computing almost always has some flair of virtual to it.  In fact even more; banking, apple and Samsung pay, and even the many services we use at home or professionally have a virtual hint to them.   its a brave new world we live in as long as we remember it still real, there is no virtual with out the real elements that make it all work.

A definition for virtual I learned long ago, is "In essence, but not in fact."  An important distinction!

And I learned "virtual" has nothing to do with the goodness of "virtue"; the two words are not related except by spelling and sound for my purposes.

Knowing this, you can better understand product claims and news reports with a more critical eye when you hear "virtual" or "virtually".

When you hear or read how one dishwasher detergent "Leaves your dishes virtually spotless!"  Then you should think "Oh, so this DOESN'T leave dishes spotless!"

Advertisers and politicians and verbose folks use "Virtual" as an escape clause, or as an exception that hides as if it were actually the truth.  "Your Honor, I have virtually no knowledge of the crime!"  Or "When I finished, the paint job was virtually perfect."

In both cases, "virtual" has nothing to due with "virtue" at all.  They're two completely different words.  The judge understands the defendant DOES know about the crime.  We realize the painter's job was imperfect.

In Information Technology fields,  a virtual server is doing the job of a server.  A virtual router IS a router.  There are no differences to the end user.

Virtually the only differences between a "real" router or server and equivalent "virtual" models are form factor and management/setup process.  We may be accustomed to a hardware box dedicated to routing, or to a pizza box server taking requests for applications or files.  We reduce costs and extend flexibility and increase uptime by moving to virtual hardware that performs the same services when our environment and budget scale to the need.  But the function of the original hardware server or router is duplicated exactly by the virtual appliance, and more flexibility and options are gained through the virtues of virtual routers and servers.

Level 14

This is truly one of my favorite things.  It is also something that is hard for many people, especially outside the IT community, to understand.  I love virtual environments and I love the idea of virtual reality.  I am very anxious to see what it will become. 

With the power that we are creating in machines now, it only makes sense to have almost completely virtual environments.  New machines and network devices are often just the cost for some additional license.  They save time and money.  No need to start from scratch.  Just deploy from a template.  Bad problem.  Just delete it and deploy from a template, or maybe even roll back to a snapshot.  Easy pesy!

Level 9

The challenge is trying to get management to virtualize very server. They keep insisting that we need physical boxes and it drives me crazy.

Level 11

Virtual -- a buzz word used extensively throughout industries to hide imperfections and enhance an otherwise lame duck. in the It world it can be used to bambozzle end users and unsuspecting managers.  the sad fact is when so IT person invented the virtual environment and called it a money saving step it spelt the DOOM of IT professionals easy days and Friday afternoons off. basically it was (and is) ma bad idea. If you can't hold it in your hand you can't fix it with a hammer and wehre is the fun in that?

Level 11

Sorry for all the bad spelling, We are upgrading our solar winds environment and all our pollers are (wait for it)...Virtual servers....and yes there are issues. BAD BAD virtual environment.

I will always be forever reminded that virtualization (nee virtual) is good, as long as it is *understood*. It's critical that people know what it means to virtualize and what it doesn't mean. Do you have flexibility? Yes. HA? Ideally yes. Do you have redundancy? Hopefully yes. Do you still have physical hosting that virtualization? Yes.  Do you have enough hardware and properly allocated hardware so that people can do what they need? Again, hopefully yes. So it's helpful to remember that not everything can or will ever be virtual because we still live in a physical world. That being said, the benefits are immense, but the planning needs to be there from the start. Otherwise it's trying to ask normal people to figure out rocket science and realize they missed something (core) to keep a virtual environment up. Or pushing to go virtual when you don't even have enough resources to do it.

The other side of virtual, is virtual reality. I enjoy that just as much - seeing how that technology has exploded lately has brought out my appreciation of technology, watching something go from entirely nascent to becoming a more and more developed and mainstream experience. I do note the same issue with VR as exists with VM's - there's a high potential to underestimate the resources needed to make it work. VR is what has sparked my own personal interest in 360 cameras, as Radioteacher​ is certainly well aware. When some think of virtual reality by itself, I think of how the physical interacts with the virtual - and what people would see when they can see in 360.


Virtual is a simulated world though it tries to make a person feel its physically present, the truth is it isn't. Things are changing in a rapid pace .... virtual infra, virtual classrooms, virtual assistant, virtual trainer .....  what not, truly speaking I don't enjoy it much but we will have to live with it and work with it as it comes with 'n' number of advantages. No matter what we have already stepped into a Virtual World and it would only expand from here ........​ actually there is a psychology behind where if things look real enough your brain doesn't know the difference. See: 'Rubber hand illusion' reveals how the brain understands the body | Science | The Guardian  and also Uncanny valley - Wikipedia

Level 12

Virtual is a huge buzzword right now. Everything is going virtual. But you still need physical to host the virtual stuff. No matter how much virtual you might be using, it still has to be hosted on some physical device somewhere.

Virtual has allowed us to do a lot more with a lot less of a physical footprint.

Level 9

It amazes me when I think about virtual. Being able to look at racks that used to be full, now being consolidated because it is no longer necessary to have that many is just crazy to me! What a time we live in!

Level 10

I like the fact that I can create multiple virtual systems on a single device. Now if only I could move my social life out of the virtual realm....


While I embrace "virtual" in the IT field it does have a bit of a "sore spot" influence around our office here.

The company I work for is headquartered in Kansas City and has some 15,000 employees. For the longest time that was the workforce. Several years they ventured into the area of not just supplying and supporting the EMR software, but also providing local bodies to do the actual IT work on site for hospitals. With that the employee base grew and with the acquisition of a Siemens Medical division the off site workers quickly outnumbered the local KC staff. The rub comes in with the KC adoption of the word virtual for workers that were not located in KC.

Thus I and 49 other people living in Rutland Vermont are "virtual" employees. Something just doesn't feel right about that.

(I love my company and this is written tong-in-cheek. It doesn't bother me, its just a term, but some of our other staff feel offended)

Level 9

Trust what you can see versus what you cannot (virtual)? 

First thing that comes to mind is who do you want to have control of your data?

I always liked the hybrid approach.

Level 9

I enjoy working with virtual systems.  In the past, actually not long ago, I would need three systems for what I can now do on one machine.  I can have Linux and MS Server both contained within my Win 10 system and use them as needed.  Then we have vSphere, which is amazing.  It's a new world of tech, which can be great contributor to FUD and Impostor Syndrome for me, but I continually return to my mantra, learning is FUN!

Level 10



One of our biggest challenges is explaining where the servers sit on the network.  We were asked for a list of all switches and routers that would impact a given list of servers.  With the size of the network, it makes it nearly impossible.  Add to the fact that over 90% of our servers are virtualized, it adds to the complexity.  So, the standard answer is that we can tell them which datacenter the device is currently located, but the details of the traffic flow depends on where the request is coming from / to.

Level 11

Let's dance tonight

To a virtual song

Press this key

And you can play along

Let's fly tonight

On our virtual wings

Press this key

To see amazing things

-- Rush, Virtuality, 1996

It can be fun to hear early takes on virtual worlds or "cyberspace", like the one quoted above. (Yes, I am a Rush fan. Go me.) What did people not in IT get or not get, and what is just outdated listening to it today.

Of course, then there are more geeky folk. A friend used to be in a group that recorded Seven Layer Cake. It's not a coincidence that the OSI model has seven layers.

We all have a much more technical concept of what virtual means in terms of servers, routers, switches, virtual machines perhaps all, in our networks. It can be interesting to see what "virtual" means to non-IT folk or how IT folk express it outside of their professional lives.

Level 12

What is Virtual reality? I virtually want everyone to think about this question.

Level 16

Reality comes down to ones perception of their environment.... so virtual reality would just become reality in the end.

Level 12

I was virtually appalled when I was first introduced to VMWare.

Level 11

When I think virtual, I think space management, I think not physical and I think unreal or intangible.

Level 11

Image result for IT virtual funny

Level 9

Virtual is the best work to use to explain the concept of something happening in a non-physical environment to someone who is not going to understand what it is that you are talking about anyways.

Level 9

I must admit, when virtualization came out I was completely against it, but now, it is making my life much easier.

Since the sub-interfaces are configured and Distributed vSwitches are in place on the ESX. It has become extremely convenient to console into servers, add RAM, CPUs, and disk drives; all without trips to DataCenter.

You can also really MinMax your IT environment. Some companies I have worked for are harder to get budget approval for IT equipment than others. But with a 512Gb RAM server with 44 cores, I can add and take away resources without having to get the Accounting department involved (If hot plug is enabled, I can do it without even bringing down the VM).

While Virtual does have its complexities; ie. Hot pluggable resources, Distributed vSwitches, virtual firewalls, vMotion, and multiple routing tables. As long as you maintain some level of documentation, maintaining a virtual environment can become a very easy job.

Level 9

With greater virtual-ness, comes greater complexity and greater flexibility.

Level 11

I have virtually no idea what to write for this topic.

Virtual - One of the many buzzwords to help the non-IT population define IT. I remember when it was first called "PC", then "digital", "information highway", "online", "cyber", "virtual", "social media", "Cloud", and I am sure I missed many others.

The one common denominator with all of these, except "PC", is that they all are electronic bits and bytes that float across the wire. They lack real substance... virtually not there. Is that what's happening to us?

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." - Churchill, The Russian Enigma speech {Broadcast} of October 1, 1939

To many the complexity brought about by the virtual realm is something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained. When you Wrap a Virtual Local Area Network, inside a Virtual Switch, inside a Hyppervisor sitting on what you believe is a physical computing system. That itself has hyperthreading turned on so you get virtually twice the VCPUs available to the Virtual Operating System Environments which connect to that VLAN and are providing Virtualized Applications within the VMs. You can go down the rabbit hole really quickly. Then when you have to unpack all of that to figure out why your end users cannot watch that cat video it can become the very nested riddle indeed.

Our server environment is about 99% virtual under VMWare.

Level 15

reminds me of one of my favorite dilbert strips!

Dilbert Comic Strip on 1990-11-08 | Dilbert by Scott Adams

Level 12

Virtual is a state of mind


I've been moving house all day so this is slightly delayed but it's given me a chance to think of something to say. We have so much information in the virtual world now that I have a long checklist of the various sites where I need to update my physical address. It would be easier convenience-wise to have something central I could change but the security ramifications would presumably outweigh that convenience.

Level 14

Wow!  Talk about a word that has morphed over the years.  Right now, for me,  virtual refers to the Virtual PaloAlto firewall I have installed and am testing.  A little this called micro-segmentation.

Level 18

(Courtesy Note: The following comment discusses items of an overtly religious nature. If that's not your thing, you are welcome to scroll along. I don't want anyone to feel like I'm pushing a particular worldview on them unexpectedly.)

What is real, and what is virtual? Is it a matter of perspective?

Two competing religious narrative elements that get discussed frequently are:

1) the inability of humans to comprehend God in any way, and therefore a general prohibition against creating images of God which would "limit" God's infinity in the mind of the viewer


2) the repeated use of anthropomorphic terms to describe God (the Hand of God, the Finger of God, God's outstretched Arm, etc).

Combine that with the description - appearing near the very start of Torah/Bible/Pentateuch/Old Testament that humans were created b'tzelem Elokim (in the image of God) and you have a conundrum of... well, biblical proportions.

Does God have a hand, arm, etc? Or is the Torah lying for the sake of metaphor? (If true, either one of these would lead to a series of issues that threaten to tear apart the validity of the entire text). On top of that, isn't the Torah doing exactly what we are prohibited from - describing God using imagery which is intrinsically limiting?

In his book "World Mask", Rabbi Akiva Tatz presents the ideas of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, or "the Rambam) that cuts to the heart of what is "virtual".

Maimonides, Rabbi Tatz explains, teaches that we have the relationship all wrong. It's tempting to read the Torah and think "God has a hand just like ours.". But that's not it. The Torah's language is God has the REAL hand - whatever that means on a cosmic level - and what we have - the thing we call a hand - is the pretend, metaphorical, VIRTUAL item. What we call a "hand" is a pale reflection of a true hand. A simplistic scaled-down version that helps us understand, at a rudamentary level, what a hand is supposed to be.

Some potential take-aways for me are:

1) it's important to recognize that our perspective, our point of view, always has the chance of coloring our view of a situation. But just because it can doesn't mean it must. If we acknowledge the potential of bias, we can get past it.

2) what is real and what is ephemeral are not always so clear or cut-and-dried. What is true for a moment may not be what is enduringly true.

...and finally...

3) Points 1 and 2 can be applicable to our work, to our relationships, to the phase our kids (or parents) may be going through as much as it can apply to the grand cosmic drama.

Level 10

Out of curiosity I looked up the definition of virtual, and what's given is "almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition" and as I've played more and more with virtual technologies that's almost a perfect desciription. Virtually.

Level 10

Virtual the word or idea that is changing IT world as we know it.

Level 9

I'm still not sure if we are living in the real world or is it just a virtual simulation.

I prefer Real Reality to Virtual Reality.

I want to touch, feel, taste, smell, see and hear it.

This reminds me of Plato's discussion of The Cave. What we see are but shadows of the true thing. So the horse we see in the stable is an imperfect horse. There does exist in the universe one true horse. All the others are but imperfect shadows cast before our eyes.

The other thought which comes to mind is that from the movie Erik The Viking (1989). A group of vikings go on a quest in which they encounter all the perils of their belief while they search for Valhalla. However, among the group is a Christian monk or priest, a missionary trying to convert them. He sees none of what they see, yet in a physical sense is transported along with them. When they finally reach the great hall, they can not enter, yet the priest walks right thru. The walls of the hall do not exist for him. So is it virtual? It exists for those inside the mythology, it has substance and consequence.

To the program inside the OS of a virtual machine it is as real as anything can be, no?

Level 21

Virtualization has given us flexibility that wasn't possible when things were all physical; however, with that we have also received a significant increase in complexity.  With this additional scale and complexity it has become critical that we have the necessary tools in place to manage these environments.

When I first started at our company everything was physical and we hosted all of our clients on just over a dozen physical servers.  I worked in the NOC at the time and we had a magnetic white board where all of the systems were listed.  When one of the engineers was going to work on a system they would come in and put a little red magnet next to the system so that we would know it was being worked on.  Fast forward to today and we have thousands of systems and no white board big enough to hold all of them and thus better tools are necessary.

Level 12

Unreal becoming real.

Level 14

This is the first role I have worked where we have more virtual servers than physical (including the physical ones that the virtual ones run on).  It is easier to provision a new server but you do lose a lot of systems when the physical breaks.  We are running pretty much at capacity and the powers that be are quibbling about a few million for a new hyperconverged solution.  Personally I can't wait.

Level 10

You can't always trust virtual, cause it is not real.  It is simulated. 

Level 20

Virtual machine, virtual currency, virtual reality, virtual networks.  Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.

Level 10


Level 9

You can achieve virtually anything you want to in life if you believe.

About the Author
Born and raised in North East Wisconsin/Upper Michigan. Recently described as "Infrastructure Warlock" doing what ever it takes to get things working again.