Server virtualization and the sprawl of datastores

Sprawl is a big issue across nearly all areas of IT. Server virtualization aims to combat server sprawl and reduce the physical footprint of servers in server rooms and data centers. It’s simple math: more consolidated systems on a lower number of higher capacity systems equals less server hardware. This works well for most systems and many have been able to reduce the footprint of their server hardware. Server virtualization has also made it easy to provision infrastructure and deploy systems in minutes rather than hours, days, weeks or months.

However, with this ease also comes VM sprawl — which in a lot of ways could be just as bad, if not worse, than server sprawl. VM sprawl puts more strain on the management, security and support layers of IT. Fortunately, there are ways to help combat the affects with good processes and third-party products. At the core of virtualization is storage, the most-used resource with typical server virtualization. All of the VM metadata files, VMDKs, swap files, templates, etc. are kept in storage, which in my opinion makes it the most important layer of the server virtualization stack.

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