Advanced image management: A giant leap toward the promise of virtualization
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In short, the challenges of managing virtualized environments are mounting. The benefits of virtualization—from cost and labor savings to increased efficiency—are being threatened by its staggering growth and the resultant complexity.
A critical piece to solving these challenges, as many organizations have already discovered, is image management. While there are many ad hoc and isolated solutions, there continues to be a real need for comprehensive image lifecycle management to combat image sprawl, get more visibility and analysis into where images are stored and how they are being used, and to ensure security through timely patching of images. This doesn’t necessarily mean jumping to cloud solutions, especially for businesses that aren’t ready to adopt cloud orchestration yet, but rather, implementing image capabilities in the virtualized environment that are robust enough to help with high-value applications and the on-ramp to advanced cloud capabilities.
Because images are easy to create and copy, it’s often difficult to decipher which images are crucial, where there is redundancy and where there may be a need for more governance. It is also an ongoing challenge to understand what an image consists of without launching it. This image complexity has resulted in IT spending a significant portion of their time on mundane or repetitive tasks such as manually building images and maintaining an image library.
Inserting automation best practices into the process of creating, deploying and managing images can result in immediate time and labor savings, with as much as 40-80% labor cost reduction by increasing image/admin ratio efficiency. Automation also helps to optimize the efficiency and accuracy of service delivery in the data center.
Once images are captured they can be deployed as often as needed. Paired with robust, automated, high-scale provisioning, hundreds of new virtual machines can be deployed in minutes, increasing IT efficiency. They can also be customized based on user needs.
Key to effective image analysis (including image search, drift, version control and image vulnerability) is the use of a federated image library, which pulls together the storage and meta information of images across multiple image repositories and hypervisors.
Image search: With a large amount of image information to contain and understand, it can become difficult to determine the connection between images or their origin. A family-tree hierarchy and grouping of images with version chains simplifies image search by showing how images are linked, when they are in use and where they originated, even in a mixed hypervisor environment. Additionally, searching capabilities within images drastically reduces the complexity of finding the right image and associated information about it.
Image drift: Varying image iterations make it difficult to manage compliance and version control. Frequently, administrators are forced to maintain volumes of duplicate and unnecessary images because it is difficult to ascertain the need, use or ownership of images. Advanced image management can increase visibility into what is inside a virtual machine through a centralized image library, to determine opportunities to consolidate images, or determine if there are security threats from vulnerable images.
With the explosion of images to govern, there is a need to be able to detect vulnerability exposures in images to ensure that no virtual machines are created without the proper level of security patches. All systems, both physical and virtual, need to be patched whether they are distributed or part of the cloud. A simplified, automated patching process can administer virtual images from a single console so you have the scalability to patch as quickly as you can provision, allowing users to maintain golden and copied images in a patched state. With this patching capability, policy enforcement can be accomplished and proven in minutes instead of days, and IT can increase the accuracy and speed of patching enforcement, achieving as much as 98% first pass patch success rate in hours.
The benefits of a comprehensive, integrated image management solution are immediately obvious. Best of all, there is a high degree of reward with very little risk.
And with image sprawl under control, organizations can expand capabilities for richer end-to-end service management across the virtualized infrastructure such as performance management and data protection as well as look to higher value cloud capabilities for faster service delivery.
For more information, here’s an in-depth look at image management as well as trial code to test out image lifecycle management capabilities.