Designing a virtual environment with VMware Capacity Planner

Moving to or expanding an existing virtual environment is a complex and daunting task, but VMware Capacity Planner can help IT pros identify resource needs and maintain an optimal environment.

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Analyzing resources with VMware Capacity Planner
VMware Capacity Planner is a capacity-planning tool available to VMware business partners. It can take an inventory of CPU, storage and memory resources, allowing administrators to evaluate their needs and then use that data to design a stable virtual infrastructure.

Conducting an in-depth, workload-by-workload analysis of a virtual environment can be time consuming, but VMware Capacity Planner can help. When Capacity Planner examines a virtual environment, it gathers metrics from around the data center, including an inventory of IT assets, how those resources are used and how workloads are distributed throughout the data center. With these metrics, administrators gain more control over their environment and are able to make proactive, administrative decisions.

VMware Capacity Planner also helps with what-if scenarios and determining the best, alternative deployment strategies, based on environment-specific criteria. Let’s say, for example, an organization needs a new server for additional workloads, as part of a migration process. Capacity Planner can create a what-if scenario and allow the administrator to evaluate resource needs, prior to making an hardware purchase. It also allows IT pros to visualize the process without actually affecting the production space.

Sizing and deploying a virtual environment based on VMware Capacity Planner results
Once the data is gathered, administrators can make solid assumptions and estimates on how to deploy their virtual environment. After Capacity Planner has collected the necessary resource inventory and usage information, IT staff can parse through the data and gain a new understanding of what they need. This understanding gives them the ability to deploy properly sized workloads and determine the best consolidation ratio.

A virtual environment uses shared resources, so it is important that the physical servers are capable of failover and load balancing. As a result, one should not use all of the resources on a given host. Instead, you should balance the workloads among multiple hosts in the pool. This way, if one server fails, there are other hosts capable of handling the load. And VMware Capacity Planner can help a virtualization administrator properly size the environment for safe failover and disaster recovery.

Many times, an organization will choose to build a new virtual environment in parallel to the existing physical infrastructure to minimize downtime. Prior to the cutover, administrators can use the metrics from Capacity Planner to evaluate and deliver the resource needs of their applications.

Depending on the virtualization initiative, administrators will have to carefully calculate the amount of users they plan to place per virtual machine and per physical host. If an organization is planning to move towards a virtual desktop infrastructure, the servers should be able to handle that type of workload and user count.

Other virtual capacity planning considerations
VMware Capacity Planner will display what workloads your current virtual environment is running and how to best consolidate it. Selecting servers based on that information is a great way to make efficient use of project dollars. However, don’t forget to account for data center variables that VMware Capacity Planner doesn’t report on. For example, determining if the core switching environment and cooling system can handle the virtual environment’s demands are important considerations before deploying vSphere.

Also, you should account for licensing. Many applications require new sets of licenses or a different licensing model when virtualized. Capacity Planner can show which workloads are running and where they are located, but it will be up to the project manager and IT team to make the right choices when deploying the virtualized software.

Monitoring and maintenance is an ongoing task even after the migration has finished. VMware vSphere 5 comes with powerful monitoring tools that allow administrators to dive deep into an environment. Alerts can be set to catch resource usage issues before they become major problems.

Consolidation and virtualization are at the top of many project lists. The goal is to reduce hardware footprints and develop an environment that is capable of growing with the needs of the business. Using VMware Capacity Planner is a good step toward making solid data center and virtualization decisions.

This was first published in April 2012

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