Virtual machine management errors that kill performance

Changing the power setting on your Windows Server, managing directly from the console, security scans taking place in real-time, screensavers running in the background -- these all sound harmless enough, don’t they? Sometimes, however, the most harmless of mistakes can lead to irreversible issues, and this is exactly the problem with virtualization environments.

All of the above-mentioned actions can severely deteriorate the functions of virtual machines. Read on for more details on virtual machine management (VMM) errors that affect performance. While some of them might appear obvious, others might warrant a second look at your settings.

Get rid of screensavers

Desktop users in brick-and-mortar workplaces all across the globe find screensavers to be a necessity. They prevent prying eyes from seeing something they’re not supposed to see on screen, and provide a certain level of privacy to users. Data centers employ screensavers as protective measures. When a console remains inactive for a certain duration, the screensaver locks the system, and safeguards that environment from outsiders who’ve gained physical access.

So what seems to be the problem?

Unfortunately, screensavers consume processor resources quietly in the background. Even the simplest screensaver consumes some percentage of the total power. This may seem insignificant, but when you have a consolidated virtual environment running multiple VMs on one virtual host, the percentage adds up to a whopping amount. No, this has nothing to do with a Whopper from BK!

The situation is a whole lot worse when your environment employs hosted desktops via a virtual desktop setup. This is why it is better to switch them off. Do not turn off the lights in the office, though -- you will trip and fall!

Direct management from the console

Most IT admins have a habit of managing from the console. They supervise the company infrastructure components by logging into individual servers, and use the Exchange server to run Exchange Management Console. The console of the server is used to check DNS settings while Active Directory management relies on remote domain controllers. Stop these actions at once.

Why?

In virtualized environments, simply logging into the virtual machine takes a toll on the processor utilization. So imagine the pressure when generating and maintaining an Explorer shell. The entire method of forming a shell for the console pushes processor utilization to the limit at the time of logging in and logging out. Basically, using any console on the server consumes tremendous resources.

Scanning for viruses

Real-time antimalware and antivirus scans of VM disk files considerably decrease their overall performance, as well as the performance of their virtual machines. Processing in VMs depends greatly upon the disk subsystem, and additional activities can slow it all down. Though the security policies of most companies don't allow for it, you must try to exclude virtual machine files from real-time scans. Do not worry, you will not hurt its feelings.

Changing the power settings

A simple but potent mistake that plagues many servers is the power settings. The default power setting for servers upon installation is set to “Balanced.” Out of three available choices – High-Performance, Balanced, and Power-Saver, this ranks second in terms of total system performance.

It’s true that your business will end up saving some money in regards to energy, but you’ll have to compromise on your server’s processing power. When you reset the radio button to High-Performance, it has a major positive impact on the performance of your VMMs.

So what to do?

Consider changing the group policy! It’s the easiest option. When you create a new policy, you can choose and set your entire virtual machine infrastructure to run at the highest performance level. Do not worry, you will not need to buy the system any Gatorade. Save that for yourself when you work out!

Misconfiguration

Configuration issues are more pronounced in virtual servers. If a particular machine build has bad default configurations, such as unnecessary services and ports, those vulnerabilities will get repeated in every virtual machine replicated from that build. Kind of like what Samsung just did with their 2016 smart phone. That is not working out for them very well at all!

Organizations tend to make mistakes when it comes to virtual network configuration, which means that the problems are carried forward when VMs make connections with other parts of the network. The shift from physical to virtual devices, and vice versa, makes it hard to carry over configuration and policy controls between them.

Nonintegration with lifecycle management

This causes problems, like the failure to conduct system integrity checking for VMs and the inability to manage patches and vulnerabilities across virtual systems. However, the proper mix of controls enables organizations to better manage their virtual machine performance compared to physical environments. When it comes to patch management, virtualization proves to be a mixed bag.

What does this mean?

On the downside, the application of patches to the host OS VMM for physical hardware supporting various virtual machines is liable to cause interruptions and issues with their performance and production, especially if a system reboot becomes necessary. However, a reboot may be performed during off hours.

The main benefit is that virtualization may be used for avoiding interruptions through the migration of live apps to other running VMs while the virtual systems get patched in sequential fashion.

Improper planning of load

It is critical for admin pros to remain ever vigilant when it comes to the load on their existing servers as well as the current memory and CPU utilizations. The servers might sometimes work so fast that you think you could do without super-fast servers. That’s a mistake. They are always a necessity for specific requirements, such as databases.

You could use that much power to run multiple servers in a virtual environment. This way you gain greater utilization out of your expensive servers. However, the problem begins when the load on this crop of servers is not handled efficiently. Such a situation may arise due to improper planning, and lead to issues that affect the performance of your virtual machine in the long run.

Any solution?

It’s best if the admin quickly assesses the number of virtual servers that can be capably run on these expensive servers. This is a fundamental step in the planning process. To handle the problem, you might try consolidating a couple of print and file servers on a single powerful host.


Virtualization has transformed into a core infrastructure technology for most businesses. One of the reasons why it has become so popular is the ease of implementation. However, the same setup may experience major problems in performance unless the virtual deployments are planned properly. Planning things in a proper manner is pivotal.

And even if the planning is implemented perfectly, admins need to be watchful about any ongoing virtualization issues plaguing VMs. By making sure that proper access and controls to regulatory and security-related data within the server remains accessible when necessary, you can keep performance issues under control.

Photo credits: Computer Hope, Stratoscale

Benjamin Roussey

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA. He has two master’s degrees and served four years in the US Navy. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship. He has an MBA in Global Management from the Univ. of Phoenix (2006). Currently he lives in the Phoenix area after living in Cabo San Lucas, MX for 3 years. He enjoys sports, movies, reading, and current events when he is not working online.

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