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Are you ready for Multiple Hypervisors?

By CIOReview | Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today, server administrators are consolidating their physical servers with a virtualization platform to improve manageability, while the company enjoys cost savings. For many organizations, a single hypervisor is not enough to fulfill all their virtualization needs. So they may opt for a second hypervisor product as a complement to the first. This has led to multiple hypervisor environments. However, adding an additional hypervisor to the data center requires server administrators to carefully consider the challenges prior to incorporating another layer of complexity to their environment.

Making Sense of the Second Hypervisor

The admin team must carefully consider how a blend of multiple hypervisors will affect their backup and disaster recovery plans. Today, most of the major backup vendors allow backing-up of multiple virtualization platforms through a single application, instead of having separate backup applications for each hypervisor. Alongside the benefit of simplified and one-stop backup and recovery, the biggest motivator behind adding the second hypervisor is addressing virtualization costs through more favorable licensing arrangements, since a different hypervisor vendor can help in lowering licensing costs.

Avoiding vendor lock-in also adds to the reason for adopting a second hypervisor. Though all the hypervisors support the basic functions, each vendor can be different in terms of service and licensing terms. With each vendor’s varied services and support, enterprises are free to test and work with a variety of hypervisors to cope with the technical changes. Adopting a second hypervisor empowers businesses to leverage specific features that the current hypervisor may not support. It can be used to improve interoperability, allowing businesses to virtualize some hardware platforms that the primary hypervisor may not fully support.

Cons of the Second Hypervisor

The introduction of instant recovery in backup applications can pose a challenge for organizations running multiple hypervisors, as this feature depends on disk-based backups. Regardless of the methods a backup vendor uses for enabling instant recovery, it cannot work without a hypervisor. Based on the abilities of the backup software, it is likely that instant recovery might be enabled for one virtualization platform, but not another. On the other hand, enabling instant recovery in a multi-hypervisor environment will require businesses to back up each virtualization platform separately.

Distributed backup applications further add to the problems involved in disaster recovery for multiple hypervisor environments. To carry out a full Virtual Machine (VM) restoration, the backup application requires to identify the virtualization platform each application’s VMs were running on. Even while running on different VMs, the backup software should be capable of performing a consistent recovery of the distributed application. In multiple hypervisor environments, this becomes an arduous task. Organizations require a good understanding of which VMs are running in each environment, what the recovery requirements are for each virtual machine and if the backup application can deliver these capabilities.

By understanding the merits and demerits of the multiple hypervisor environment and the backup options, server administrators can choose the best fit for their organization. Effectively managing a heterogeneous hypervisor setup requires both the understanding of the virtualization technologies, as well as a good set of cross-platform management tools. While standardizing on a single hypervisor reduces complexity and management hassles, multiple hypervisor environments may be used to enhance interoperability. A second virtualization platform should only be adopted or deployed with careful consideration of its costs, scope of deployment, and the overhead that another hypervisor would impose on IT staff. This mix of hypervisors can be a result of mergers and acquisitions, or due to dwindling IT budgets pressurizing the IT staff to adopt less expensive technology. Irrespective of the reason, multiple hypervisor environments are gradually becoming the new norm of today’s virtual frameworks.