Using virtual machines and automation together offers amazing opportunities to improve efficiency and save money. This post will give a brief overview and serves as a starting point to gather ideas.

What is Virtual Machine Automation?

Virtualization is a great way to isolate different task from each other without the need for separate physical machines. This separation comes in handy if you want to try out a software, run multiple tools without having to worry about dependencies, or want to offer your customers compute resources without giving them access to a physical machine. The added benefits of flexibility, fault tolerance and security have led to a widespread use of virtual machines (VMs) all over the industry, and even in some hobbyist applications.

However, while a fantastic tool, creating a new virtual machine can be tedious when done often.

6 Steps to build a virtual machine

  1. Create a new virtual machine
  2. Choose an operating system we want to use.
  3. Configure our virtual machine with the correct amount of resources. However, we don’t want to use too much and waste resources.
  4. Install the operation system. Which gets tiresome as we download the correct installation medium and manually go through the installation steps.
  5. Configure the network
  6. Customize the virtual machine

Automation simplifies virtual machine creation

As you can see there are a lot of steps involved. All of these can be automated. Most virtual machine hypervisors offer APIs and installations can run autonomous by using kickstart installation scripts.

vm chart >

Templates make things easier

Some of the steps above can be automated using templates, which are pre installed and configured virtual machines. This reduces the steps 1-4 into one step, but results in a bit more configuration effort.

But have to be maintained

One important thing to mention here is that these templates also need to be maintained. Keeping them up to date without automation is an often neglected task, resulting in additional effort when providing VMs from templates.

While virtual machine automation requires some initial work to setup, as you can see in the chart, it is worth it in the long run.

Use Cases for Automating Virtual Machines

Before diving into how to automate the provisioning of your VMs, let us first look at a few use cases that such an automation could empower.

Improve your Infrastructure Deployment

IT infrastructure is an area that benefits greatly from the use of virtual machine automation. It can be used as both, a part of the infrastructure itself and as a service to other departments.

The Service is up to you

VMs in the IT infrastructure can include instances of monitoring software, in-house communication tools or backup infrastructure, as well as production systems. While most of these services can be bought in the cloud, it can be beneficial for cost and security reasons to run them as an on-premise solution.

VMs for other departments can go far beyond the occasional R&D machine, SCRUM tools or a Git instance. Websites and their additional services like telemetry, a company wiki or project management software can all be contained in well isolated VMs.

Automation Saves your Time

While the advantages of using VMs are very compelling, the creation and management adds another set of responsibilities and tools. However, with a little bit of automation these tasks can be implemented, which saves time and money in the long run.

Automaton allows your IT to build virtual machines in a simple, fast and reliable way.

Faster Software Development

Using automation comes natural for developers. The difficult thing is to figure out where the use of VMs can benefit the development process. As a general rule, you can use it, whenever you need a well defined system as your starting point, if dependencies at the OS level are a concern or for regular tasks.

Where to Use VMs in Development and Why ?

  • VMs are great when used for reproducible integration tests.
  • VMs allow testing install scripts on multiple distributions and operating systems.
  • VMs allow building software for different operating systems.
  • VMs can be used to install single tools, without potential conflicts with other tools or libraries. These can can also be powered off and on as needed for saving resources.
  • VMs can be used for routine tasks, that otherwise require your primary machine to run non stop. For example: Cron jobs or nightly builds.
  • VMs can be used to preserve the development environments. Especially for tools with very little maintenance far in between, it can be hard to remember how to setup everything. Using snapshots, you can start again, right where you left off.
  • Providing a fully set up default development VM is possible. A new team member is ready to go right from the beginning.

When trying to speed up your development, virtual machine automation is a great way to start your optimization.

Use Self Service and Integrations to Speed up your Development

An advanced virtual machine automation also allows for self service and process integration. This drastically reduces the communication overhead to your IT department. Provide your developers with a platform to build their virtual machines when they need them. This reduces the work of your IT department and speeds up development. Or directly integrate the virtual machine automation into your development test processes. When done right it reduces not only time, it also saves resources.

Reduced Costs for Hosting Industrie

Combining automation and VMs is established practice for many hosters. It’s an important part of their business. Hosters sell virtual private servers (VPS) which are ready to use virtual machines bought by the customer to be used for their purpose. Having a fast and reliable process that integrates well into payment and CRM systems is common practice. Hosters heavily benefit from this kind of automation since its their daily bread and butter.

Hosters are often the only companiess that have some sort of virtual machine automation in place. The range differs from using templates up to having a complete virtual machine automation. Since many of them are self developed maintenance can take a lot of effort.

3 Things that make Self Developed Solutions expensive

  • Maintaining templates or kickstart installations for operating systems
  • Adding new customer features for better access or management of virtual machines
  • managing the stability between interfaces to payment, CRM or other systems involved

A great automation reduces the amount of work, maintenance and costs.

Virtual machine automation is the key when it comes to optimization

There are many use cases for virtual machine automation and only some of them are mentioned here. All in All virtual machine automation helps you to speed up things and saves time and resources.

It is a great chance to improve your success.