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How to deploy low-cost virtualization health check tools

Learn how to find and deploy low-cost virtualization health check tools, manage health check projects and create a health check report in part three of this four-part series.

Solutions provider takeaway: In part three of this four-part series on virtualization health checks, discover the low-cost tools you can take advantage of to perform virtualization health checks and surveys for customers. Learn about deploying and delivering the health check report and how to repair the issues uncovered during the health check process.

About the author
Tim Anderson is currently a storage consultant, as well as a contributing analyst, for Storage Switzerland. He has a deep background in the storage and virtualization environments, with years of experience managing and architecting one of Chicago's largest data centers.

Virtual infrastructures are popping up in accounts of all sizes, from the very small to the extremely large. There are many opportunities for a clever partner to capitalize on new installations or existing ones that have fallen into a poor state of repair.

Customers that typically deploy virtual environments don't always put aggressive change or configuration management practices in place. That, in turn, leads to misconfigured guest or virtual servers, which down the road may cause resource contention or security concerns because of downtime.

To use these virtualization health check tools effectively, you have to first determine the experience level of the engineering staff. Make sure the engineering staff completely understands the effects of the health check tools, which will minimize errors during the health check cycle.

Second, determine if there is a need to create a virtualization health check practice in the first place. Do the research with your existing customer base to figure out if the health check will be a profitable, or at least a value-added, project.

Virtualization health check series
Part 1: Developing virtualization health check services: Gap analysis

Part 2: Server virtualization health check services: Data protection, networking

Next, be sure the sales team is trained and completely understands the scope of the health check project. The representatives should know what's involved for both the customer and the provider. And finally, practice, practice and practice again. The more experience you have with health checks, the better the projects will go.

Free tools for virtualization health checks
Scripts and simple tools for monitoring, securing and compliance auditing are available for VMware health checks. Other tools require installation and a lengthy gathering of data. They include:

  • ESX Healthcheck script
    • Provides a wealth of configuration information, which will help unearth potential problem areas
    • Provides stellar HTML output
  • PowerShell VMware Healthcheck script
    • Determines uncommitted snapshots
    • Stores data at or near full capacity
    • Checks virtual machines (VMs) with different versions of VM tools
    • Shows connected floppies and CD-ROMs
    • Determines if VMs are swapping due to memory overruns
    • Provides excellent HTML output for review
  • Virtual machine compliance tools
    • Audit host servers to prevent VMs from being compromised

Those free tools only offer insight into specific parts of the virtual infrastructure, and this is where the value of solutions providers comes in. They can compile the data from these tools and provide useful reports and action items for customers.

Establish customer expectations
The first step is to schedule planning meetings with customers to determine how much of the virtual environment they want to have checked. Some customers may only want to review a small sampling of the environment, whereas others may want the entire virtual infrastructure evaluated. During the planning meetings, make sure all appropriate stakeholders are in the room, including architects, systems administrators, IT managers and technical and sales staff.

A number of items should be on the table for discussion. These include:

  • The size and scope of the virtualization health check process
    • Specify the number of systems to be checked and for how long, which is usually determined by the length of the business cycle.
  • How much time the customer has to devote to the project
    • This is crucial to understand, because the customer really needs to be engaged throughout this process.
  • The customer's expectations as to the outcome of the virtualization health check
    • Do they just want the report, or do they want the solutions provider to perform the next steps in the repair process?

Deployment of virtualization health check tools
After determining customer expectations, the next step is to deploy the tools into the customer's environment. The solutions provider should also create a template for the data collected by the tools. That way, repeating the health check in the future won't take a Herculean effort.

The deployment phase of the health check is one of the most important times in the cycle. It will demonstrate to the customer that the solutions provider understands the company's needs and is knowledgeable enough to complete the project.

A word of caution: Depending on the size and length of the engagement, an engineer should be available to perform the necessary tasks outlined in the project plan. Having someone there only for the bare minimum of time will lead to an unsuccessful health check -- and, potentially, a frustrated customer.

Delivering the report and subsequent actions
The final phase of the virtualization health check is the delivery of the report and a discussion of potential follow-up steps. The goal of the report delivery is to state the facts uncovered during the health check, not to criticize the customer for having an unclean virtual environment. Once the health check facts are on the table, the solutions provider should offer a detailed list of the next steps, with an estimated cost for the repairs. The report should also contain a list of risks to the customer's virtual environment.

By using simple and easy-to-use virtualization health check tools, a partner can show a significant amount of value in the virtualization market with a bare minimum of expense. By delivering the report in a professional manner, the partner will warrant a long and happy relationship with the customer.

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