Network Virtualization Best Practices | NETSCOUT

Virtualization

It’s no secret that Virtualization saves money, is well-developed and there are several high impact vendors on the market to choose from. It is here to stay, and if it hasn't already, it will soon make a permanent home in the data center. 

Switches, routers, and other infrastructure devices are being consolidated and virtualized, creating whole network infrastructure environments within on one hardware platform. There are several impacts and key considerations with server and infrastructure virtualization, but most IT departments consider the cost and efficiency savings to be well worth the switch.

Virtual Network Testing

This increase of virtualization in the data center is driving the need for increased skill sets in the IT organization. Before virtualization, the IT organization was divided into distinct responsibilities - the network engineers, the server and application Support group, and the security team. Now, these lines are blurred, and virtualization of both servers and network infrastructure has created overlap in the roles within IT. The workload and responsibility of a support person will increase significantly, as they are now expected to learn, implement, and maintain a dynamic, high-reliability environment which is no longer restricted to one physical platform or vendor.

Migration to a virtual network infrastructure will require network engineers to adopt new configuration and monitoring methodologies, as there are fewer physical switches and routers to support. Also, there is an ongoing debate on whether virtualization makes the system more or less secure. If one system is compromised within the virtual environment, will this give access to all the others? Questions like these need to be considered when rolling out a virtual service. Additionally, the increase in physical traffic to one hardware platform will place a greater impact on the cabling infrastructure. This infrastructure should be tested and fully certified before rolling out these systems.

Key Considerations

Research and test virtualization platforms to ensure that they will meet your business needs. All solutions offer different features and benefits, so it is important to pick one that will improve performance and minimize overhead. Before moving servers to a virtualized environment, it is critical to inventory the servers and understand application dependencies.

Several users and systems may rely on a server for application delivery, and before moving it, these relationships must be monitored and understood. Simply bringing up a virtual server and moving services and data over to it is not enough. Once a system is virtualized, it should be thoroughly tested to ensure its readiness before re-inserting it into the application infrastructure.

Since there are higher demands on the cabling infrastructure, these cables should be tested and re-certified to ensure they will support the increased load. At this point, there are no standards for migrating to a virtual environment, so now more than ever, monitoring and troubleshooting systems should be in place to make the invisible visible, minimizing the business impact of misconfigurations, unexpected events, and outages. If virtual switches are used to connect virtual servers, effort should be made to fully understand the monitoring and analysis impacts. Can SPAN/Mirror ports still be used? Is NetFlow available? If so, how much impact do these monitoring tools have on the performance of the system?

Virtualization Best Practices

Visibility and security within the Virtual Environment are huge concerns for IT Organizations today. Before, during, and after migration, it is critical to use SNMP, NetFlow, and Virtual Taps to monitor the health, connectivity, and usage of these now-virtual systems. In some platforms, servers can be automatically moved and migrated to more efficiently utilize hardware resources. For these reasons, server inventory and location should be closely monitored.

Using a virtual tap or traffic mirroring port, application traffic should be monitored and analyzed for server response time and irregular behavior. Due to the fact that virtualization is still somewhat new compared to other systems within the IT organization, it is often blamed first when a problem strikes. For this reason, 24x7 monitoring tools should be in place which can quickly isolate a problem to the physical network or to the virtual environment.

Data Center Solutions

 

Today’s networks are in a constant state of evolution. Infrastructure expansion plus deployment of new technologies provides ongoing challenges for network professionals. With the right solutions, more of the team can solve issues faster and with less frustration.

NETSCOUT’ family of products were designed to do just that. Let us help guide you to a solution.

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