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Avoiding Blind Spots in Virtual Networks

Virtualization adoption continues to increase. According to IDC analyst Cindy Borovick, 2010 will be the first year in which the number of deployed virtual servers will actually outnumber the number of physical ones. More and more companies are turning to virtualized environments to streamline application deployment, to simplify IT operations and to allow IT organizations to respond faster to changing business demands. It’s worth noting that due to a decrease in price and an increase in administrative tools that make management easier, virtualization is now being adopted even by smaller mid-market organizations.

It’s important to remember that network analysis differs a bit in virtual environments because you’re dealing with shared resources. In a traditional environment, you would normally span a switch port from a physical Ethernet switch or router and the data would stream across into the appliance. But in the case of a virtual environment, data comes back through a virtual adapter without actually hitting a physical switch. This creates a data blind spot in your appliance and the communication between appliances is never seen meaning problems
with the applications go unknown.

In order to combat this blind spot and successfully perform network analysis in a virtual environment it is important to establish goals. After all there is no big difference between network analysis in a virtual environment and in a traditional one in terms of goals. The only thing that changes is the implementation. Instead of capturing data at the physical layer, you collect data at the level of the virtual switches. As companies consider virtualization, there are five high-level network analysis related considerations that should be addressed…

  • Be specific – know what you want to analyze and focus only on those areas
  • Understand your environment – adjust options to only applications or machines needed, settings are there for a reason and you should take advantage of them in order to receive the best performance
  • Analyze the essentials – make sure you are only analyzing what you need to know. You should rule out analysis in areas that aren’t of importance to your organization
  • Know your resources limits – you should have an idea of your CPU expectations, disk space needed and overall CPU load
  • Anticipate hardware resources needs – if you want to do post capture, it is essential to make sure you have the proper amount of disk space allocated. It’s important to keep everything within a reasonable limit in a virtualized space since you are taking a single computer and optimizing several resources.

The benefits of implementing virtualization for organizations are well documented. Just make sure you’re set up to do proper network analysis to keep the network healthy to maximize those benefits.

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