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Reading up on VM sprawl this morning with some help from DABCC, Alan Murphy, and Chris Hoff.  At issue is whether “rogue” VM’s and other unsanctioned VM’s (or ones that leave on laptops, etc.) are a big problem for the enterprise.  These folks are debating the topic like crazy both on their blogs and on Twitter, which is good – it gets you thinking.

When I think of sprawl, I think not only of tools but of compliance, standards, and rules.  To use a parallel in the physical world, I relate it to zoning.  Having had the privilege of living in a variety of cities and traveling to lots more, houstonsprawlI have seen how differences in zoning and oversight can make a difference in how cities scale out – both from a management perspective and an aesthetic perspective.

Consider some examples:

  • Sprawl cities:  These are cities like Houston, Baton Rouge (my home town), and Los Angeles.  They go on for miles, and you find strange combinations of residential and commercial properties side by side with no rhyme or reason.  This has led to a strange mismatch of “stuff” in the cities due to sprawling development and haphazard zoning.
  • “Planned growth” cities:  I happen to live in one of these right now – the Portland, Oregon metro area.  I find it interesting that a liberal,  weird city like Portland has a strictly-enforced urban growth boundary and relatively rigid zoning.  Development is not allowed outside of this boundary, and within the boundary there are clear lines in most areas to segregate commercial and residential development. [side note: It certainly isn’t perfect, but this approach has helped keep Portland home values from dropping as quickly during the current housing debacle, since it’s kept housing inventory growth in check]


So what the heck does this have to do with VM sprawl anyway?  I think the common thread is this: once sprawl starts it is difficult to stop, and even more difficult to undo.

For that reason, I suggest that any organization who’s early enough in the virtualization –> production process take a hard look at their VM “zoning” regulations, and try to design policies, controls, standards, etc. that will help them as they scale out and prevent their infrastructure from looking like a landscape of virtual strip malls.

Plan for growth and manageability, and you’ll be much happier in the long run.