Paul Venezia at InfoWorld has a great article entitled When Virtualization Becomes Your Worst Enemy.  His introduction will ring true to anyone who has been in IT a while – and it should be required reading for new IT staff

Try as we might to keep chaos at bay, there will come a time when the perfect storm hits and everything falls apart. Usually a confluence of elements triggers total meltdown, but sometimes one overlooked weak link fails and causes a cascade of problems that takes an entire network offline.

These situations are never easy to deal with and are generally compounded by the fact that admins are feverishly working to fix problems while being bombarded with alarms from other systems that are also failing due to the initial outage. It’s like trying to rebuild a house while it’s falling down on top of you.

One of the best things that virtualization can be one of the worst things about virtualization: the fact that you have fewer physical machines performing with a higher workload. Paul notes that fewer machines mean more opportunity for the chaos to occur since each failure has more potential impact on the rest of the IT infrastructure.  This means that your plans and implementation for what happens when something goes wrong is more important than in physical-only environments – or in environments that have less virtual server consolidation than those with more server consolidation.

Backup – by its very name and nature – is there for when things go wrong.  So backup planning and implementation is more important as virtualization is not just introduced but optmized in any environment and server consolidation is realized.

So if virtualization can become your enemy in this situation, and backup is your friend, how do you make sure that you can rely on your friend?  The key attributes you’re looking for in your “friend” (i.e., backup) here are flexibility and heterogenity.  In our next blog post, we’ll discuss this in detail.