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virtualization sprawl (VM sprawl)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Cut data center sprawl to improve IT capacity

Virtualization sprawl is a phenomenon that occurs when the number of virtual machines (VMs) on a network reaches a point where the administrator can no longer manage them effectively. Virtualization sprawl may also be referred to as virtual machine sprawl, VM sprawl or virtual server sprawl. 

Ironically, virtualization sprawl can undo the consolidation benefits that make virtualization attractive and cost-effective in the first place. This is because while virtual machines (VMs) are easily created, they have the same licensing, support, security and compliance issues that physical machines do. To prevent virtualization sprawl, the administrator should define and enforce a process for the deployment of VMs and create a library of standardized VM image files. VMs that are being under-utilized should be archived

Virtual machine lifecycle management (VMLM) tools can help administrators oversee the implementation, delivery, operation, and maintenance of virtual machines over the course of their existence. Such tools can provide administrators with a dashboard user interface (UI) that will show how many virtual machines are running on a network, which physical machines are hosting them, where their storage is located, what software or operating system (OS) licenses are associated with them and who created them.

See also: server sprawl

This was last updated in February 2018

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