With virtualization, software licensing is really complicated

Many a times licensing of software are overlooked in virtualization infrastructure. Virtualization actually complicate the licensing, accordingly CIOs and System Administrators should have some strategy or exercise to make sure that the organization has redeem the correct software licensing.

There are varieties of issues that can make licensing difficult in virtualized environment. One of the most common licensing issues is buying or purchasing several different license types in order to remain compliant. Few of the required license types are:
  • Hypervisor licenses, 
  • Management Server licenses, 
  • Managed server licenses, 
  • Guest OS Server licenses, 
  • Guest OS Client licenses, 
  • Application licenses, 
  • Application client licenses, etc.

A complicated licensing issue occurs when a Guest OS VM created on a host and immediately migrated to another host. In the same ways, new VMs can be created on a whim by anyone who has permissions. So, how CIOs and System Admins can keep up with the licensing requirements?

All the software vendors have their own unique way of licensing requirements. So it is CIO’s duty to make sure that you adhere to requirements of the software rather than following the set of guidelines. There are a few general strategies too that usually work.

Always pay attention socket-specific license requirements. It is common now that maximum of the hypervisor vendors base their licensing requirements as per-physical socket for hypervisor and management server.

If an Operating System vendor requires licensing for every user who accesses the server, that requirement doesn’t usually go away just because the server is running on virtual hardware. Whereas, vendors provide choices to purchase the client access licensing on either a per-user or per-device basis. Previously, companies use to purchase licensing on per-device basis, as that was a little less expensive. But today, with every user using multiple devices having user based licensing is a cost effective option.

If VMs are running free open source OS, otherwise the Guest OS on your VM must be licensed. Guest OS licensing policies vary widely so it is important to check with the vendor to examine the specific requirements.

Windows Server 2012 R2 licensing applies only to the host not on the VM. This host-level license applies to the VMs running on the host. For example: if an organization is running Windows Server 2012 R2 on VMware. Company obviously licenses the VMware Hypervisor, but company also has to purchase Windows Server License. This license will apply to the Windows VMs running on the VMware server. If a VM is migrated to a different VMware server, then the destination Windows Server licensed will apply to the VM. In other words, Windows Server VMs do not take their licensing with them while migrating from one host to another.

Virtualization management servers typically require licenses for each server that is being managed. For example if a company plan to use Microsoft System Center VMM (Virtual Machine Manager), then company will need a licenses for each host server they are planning to manage.

Mostly licensing is complicated in virtualized environments. CIOs should review the licensing periodically and make sure to check the requirements for library servers to ensure if there are any licenses required for software installed within an image that is used to create new VMs.

Considering between virtualization and cloud, which is best?

Cloud or virtualization, which is right for my business? These questions always parts of consideration while adopting a solution form them. Even though many IT Managers or CIO are a little skeptical about the difference between both, because Cloud is more like Virtualization’s extended version. But if you have 100% virtualized infrastructure it doesn’t mean that you are having a Private Cloud infrastructure. Both technologies are almost similar and not interchangeable. But, the significant difference between both can affect your business decision.
Virtualization vs Cloud:
What is Virtualization?
Virtualization is a layer to create different and dedicated resources on the same physical infrastructure. Through virtualization you can run multiple software applications and operating systems at the same time on same hardware. You require a hypervisor above the physical infrastructure to create, run and manage different Virtual Machines. You can configure each VM as per your requirement of application, OS, environment, physical resources etc. There are many big players that provide hypervisor like VMware, Microsoft, Oracle, HP etc.
Virtualization makes servers, storage, workstations and other systems independent from physical infrastructure. Virtualization is the core fundamental that powers the cloud computing.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud the buzzword which gives more flexibility of computing in other words you can call Cloud Computing as “a type of Internet-based computing”. But also require hardware, software, hypervisor etc. while building.
So, how’s virtualization different from cloud?
Virtualization is the base of cloud computing and helps to deliver the value for cloud computing. Biggest confusion occurs when virtualization and cloud work together to provide different services, mostly the case in Private Cloud infrastructure.

Through virtualization you can enable the Cloud Computing if you are offering 100% virtualization infrastructure with:

  • On demand services
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Pay-per-use model

With all these 5 elements and 100% virtualization your organisation achieve the Private Cloud infrastructure. Some of the expert companies also mentions that cloud computing can also achieve without virtualization with the help of certain hardware, operating system and even application cluster can offer cloud services but those are quite complicated and costly. Even though require a lot of time consuming work just for limited set of features.

How do you know if your business needs Virtualization Model or Cloud Model?
With virtualization companies can maintain and secure their infrastructure because of following benefits:
  • Maximize resources:
    Virtualization saves a lot of hardware resources and you can get more value from a single server. Maximum time with traditional way of computing most of the servers are under-utilised but with virtualization allows to use the 100% power of them.

  • Multiple systems:
    Virtualization enables you to create different VMs to run multiple types of applications and multiple operating systems for those applications on the same physical hardware.

  • IT budget integration:
    With virtualization administration and maintenance of resources is easy for your infrastructure and saves a lot for IT operations.

So companies that need greater control for integration and security & financially work more in capital expenditure model should adopt Virtualization model.

Whereas, those companies should adopt cloud, which work on operational expenditure model and have less IT staff and very few security concerns should. Cloud basically leverage you with:

  • Outsourced IT:
    The daily IT administration tasks, care or maintenance, and support system move away from the company to service provider. This will free up your internal IT resources and advances your business quickly.

  • Quick Setup:
    A startup that adopts cloud from start their work become easy as cloud services is quick and easy. Servers, appliances and application licenses go away when you such kind of service. Even though no need to take care of updates to do the compatibility. Every issue is now on the head of service provider.

  • Pay-per-use:
    All the SaaS (Software as a Service) based application available today with this model of paying of what you actually use. You can customize the services and pay the service provider of what and how much quantity you are using, no extra cost.

  • Scalability:
    By using cloud you have the facility to use it from anywhere and it off loads a whole big amount of IT capacity to the service provider. This increases the scalability of your working environment.

Never Run out of Resources by Taking Charge of VM Sprawl

When monitoring a virtualized environment, it’s important to understand the various performance issues & bottlenecks that may arise. As most virtual admins know, VM sprawl doesn’t occur over night, rather over a period of time and for a number of reasons.

For example, as a Virtual Admin, create VM’s based off of demand and can do so very easily, especially since new hardware isn’t required. When the number of VM’s increases within your infrastructure, it can lead to a lack of resources, performance issues, bottlenecks, or worse…VM sprawl.
The key to address these issues is to focus on resource utilization because if not properly allocated, ROI can even be affected. Provided below are a few areas virtual admins can focus on to better utilize their resources and avoid VM sprawl:

Zombie & Idle VMsare allocated a certain amount of resources, however with them being idle, these resources aren’t being utilized. In turn, other VM’s are affected due to their lack of resources. Signs of zombie & idle VMs:
– No recent login by users. For example, when employees leave an organization, their VM will become idle
– No recent file modification, as users aren’t using the VM
– Check when last powered on or off
By eliminating these VMs you can reclaim the wasted resources.

Rouge VMs are allocated a share of resources, yet they continue to consume additional resources. In turn, these VMs grow faster than they’re supposed to. Rogue VMs are one of the major causes for latency. You should drill down further to understand why these VMs grow at such a rapid rate. By checking their historical data & you can determine the reason for these changes and remediate accordingly.

Over allocated VMsconsume a lot of resources that aren’t needed by the end-user or client. It’s recommended to right size all your VMs. Look out for VMs which have under utilized CPU, memory, and storage. Analyze their historical consumption to understand the cause for over allocation in a VM and if it will be permanent.

VM Sprawl doesn’t happen overnight and it is not easily noticeable. VM Sprawl becomes a performance issue and bottleneck over a period of time. Some recommended solutions to overcome performance issues from VM sprawl:

– Don’t allocate too much memory and other resources. Go through with software or an application manual, assign resources per the recommendations given by the vendor.
– Allocate single vCPU at first, add more later on if needed.
– Monitor & delete VMs that are no longer needed to reclaim wasted resources.
– Don’t create snapshot of each VM. It is recommended to archive VMs so you can save storage space.
– Keep a historical log of configuration changes to track what changed the performance graph.
– Chargeback or showback to understand the cost of each VM.
– Check with business groups to understand the need for creating a VM.
– Define rules for maximum number of VMs allocated to an individual/user/department.

By utilizing these few tips on resource utilization you will be able to avoid VM sprawl. While these tips are useful, it is recommended to implement a modern virtualization management tool to make it easier to identify & control VM sprawl. You will be able to monitor and account for all resources being used. In turn, you will be eliminate bottlenecks in VMs.