Virtualization best practices

A range of virtualization products, including VMware's bare-metal hypervisors ESX and ESXi, offers several advanced capabilities that simplify the virtualization process in complex network architectures. With virtualization becoming an integral part of these organizations' IT infrastructures, network admins are now tasked with ensuring optimal performance and constant availability of virtual machines and networks. This can be an impractical task without an effective network monitoring solution offering comprehensive virtual machine monitoring and without following best practices.

To help network administrators in this process, we have compiled a list of commonly recommended best practices for VMware virtualization. While every network architecture is unique and requires different configurations, these best practices give you a holistic idea of how to avert common issues involved in virtualization.

On this page, we will discuss:

  • Effective resource management with strategic allocation and utilization monitoring.
  • CPU best practices to improve virtualization performance.
  • Recommendations for managing memory resources for virtualization.
  • Appropriate storage configurations for vendor-specific monitors.
  • The use of up-to-date hardware and firmware with required configurations and suitable health monitors.

Effective resource management with strategic allocation and utilization monitoring

Without the right resource management techniques being employed in virtual network management, virtual networks can easily run into issues such as resource exhaustion. To avoid this, network administrators need to calculate their network's workload before implementing virtualization. Once implemented, there should be complete visibility and control of the physical resources and their allocations. This helps you monitor, track, and analyze resource utilization trends and employ effective resource allocation and management strategies with ease.

Some of the best practices to enable effective resource management and utilization include:

  • Deploy an effective virtual resource monitor: Keep an eye on all your underlying physical resources with an effective resource monitor such as OpManager. It enables setting up a diverse range of monitors, such as utilization, health, availability, and performance monitors. This helps you easily detect and throttle any emerging issues that may hinder resource availability on your VMware virtual machines.
  • Free up resources by disabling unused components: Unused hardware, such as storage controllers and network interfaces, can easily strain resources like CPU polling and blocks of memory. Thus, disconnecting or disabling these components reduces resource constraints on virtual machines.
  • Develop resource sizing strategies: Over-provisioning of resources can simplify resource allocation by tackling peak resource consumption but can lead to issues such as overcommitment of physical resources. Strategically allocate resources by observing your network's resource consumption patterns with a reliable network resource monitor.

CPU best practices to improve virtualization performance

Network administrators need to be diligent when it comes to managing CPU resources in virtual networks. Any issues with accessing these resources can make virtual machines slow or unresponsive. Here are some considerations to make in CPU resource management for VMware virtual networks:

  • Deploy an effective CPU monitoring solution that proactively monitors CPU resources and troubleshoots issues with ease.
  • Ensure that the total CPU resources required by all the virtual machines does not exceed the host CPU's capacity. This helps avert issues such as CPU overloading.
  • Network administrators should create and use virtual CPUs only when needed since unused virtual CPUs still consume timer interrupts and execute idle loops.
  • Only allocate enough virtual CPUs for the expected server load since instances such as context switching can create an overhead for the hypervisor. Deploy a reliable virtual server management tool to simplify this process.
  • When using ESX hosts, ensure the hypervisor functions have enough CPU cores allocated for them to run uninterrupted. If the hypervisor needs more CPU cores than are available, it can de-schedule any running virtual processes.
  • Ensure CPU cycles are available for disk I/O and choose the right disk adapter for your virtual network.

Appropriate storage configurations for vendor-specific monitors

When it comes to virtual networking, storage resources become difficult to monitor as the implementation techniques, protocols used, and troubleshooting steps might vary for different storage devices. Storage performance issues in virtual networks are often due to the underlying storage hardware and are not specific to virtual entities such as ESX and ESXi hosts. Therefore, network administrators need to be fully aware of the type of storage device used, its operational status, the latency in disk reads and writes, and I/O metrics.

To simplify the tedious task of storage monitoring in virtual networks, network administrators can adhere to the following best practices:

  • Storage performance is easily affected by network link issues such as ethernet bottlenecks. Understand the capabilities of the network's link structure and implement virtualization accordingly to avert such issues. Network visualization or network diagram software such as OpManager can help.
  • Even the most carefully implemented storage networks have issues if crucial storage metrics are not constantly monitored. Deploy OpManager, a storage monitoring solution that offers various vendor-specific monitors to keep track of required metrics. It supports most vendors, streamlines your storage monitoring, and offers a range of monitors, including those for read and write latency, I/O, request rates, and data stores.
  • Understand your network's physical and logical constraints, such as link capacity and use of VPNs, to better organize your storage devices.
  • Optimize performance by strategically distributing storage loads over available links and storage processors.
  • When using RAID and VMware solutions such as ESX and ESXi hosts, ensure that the logical unit number is configured with the correct RAID level and storage attributes.
  • Strategically use disk shares and other storage optimization techniques for the Virtual Machine File System that is accessed by multiple virtual machines.

Recommendations for managing memory resources for virtualization

Memory is a critical resource for virtual networks. Factors such as memory sizing, overhead, and over-commitment need to be considered before implementing, scaling, or making any changes to your virtual network. Some best practices for memory management include:

  • Manage memory overhead: Ensure the physical memory allocated for a virtual hypervisor like ESX and its virtual machines includes the extra memory required to store its files and codes. An additional memory space overhead for each virtual machine is necessary for the virtual applications and services to function uninterrupted. Ensure the host's memory size is larger than the memory usage of all the virtual machines.
  • Strategize memory sizing: Carefully specify the memory limit and memory reservation and allocate only enough memory for virtual machines to function as desired. Over-allocation of memory takes away from the total available physical memory for other virtual machines.
  • Monitor memory-specific metrics: Many virtualization solutions like VMware ESX and ESXi use memory over-commitment techniques, such as page sharing, ballooning, and swapping. As a best practice, do not disable page sharing or the balloon driver.

The use of up-to-date hardware and firmware with required configurations and suitable health monitors

Virtual networks run on top of the hardware components in a network. Hence, the underlying hardware and firmware resources should be configured and deployed appropriately to meet the requirements of the virtual network. A clear understanding of the hardware specifications required to run a virtual network can save admins the hassles of misconfigured or improper underlying hardware.

Best practices for maintaining reliable underlying resources for virtualization include:

  • The availability of your virtual networks depends on the availability of your hardware components. Issues in your hardware result in increased latency and unresponsive virtual machines in your virtual environment. To avoid these hurdles, OpManager's hardware health monitor is indispensable. It seamlessly monitors crucial hardware performance, utilization, and health metrics, helping network admins gain complete visibility into their hardware components.
  • onfigure the hardware's BIOS firmware settings as specified by the virtual product vendor and the device manufacturer. Ensure that whenever hardware and firmware are updated, any changes made to their settings are retained.
  • Test your components before fully implementing virtualization on top of them.
  • Use paravirtualized hardware that enables optimal performance for resource-intensive operations by offering comprehensive queuing and process off-loading features.
  • Configure the network interface cards, switches, adapters, and other hardware components as specified by the virtualization solution vendor.

Overall, to improve your virtual network's performance, we recommend you use a comprehensive virtualization monitoring solution along with the suggested best practices.

Meet OpManager: Your one-stop solution for all your network monitoring needs

ManageEngine OpManager is a comprehensive network monitoring solution. It offers a virtualization module with in-depth virtual network monitoring and a virtualization monitoring dashboard. Keep track of all your virtual machines with advanced capabilities such as VMware monitoring, monitor ESX and ESXi hosts, manage resource allocation, and do even more with ease using OpManager. In addition to monitoring your hardware, memory, and storage resources, OpManager offers more than 2,000 built-in network performance monitors and supports device templates for leading vendors. All these enable you to take complete control over your network resources and ensure issue-free, constant availability and optimal performance in your virtual networks.

New to OpManager? Schedule a personalized, live demo or download a free, 30-day trial to explore how OpManager simplifies your network management tasks!

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