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VM Sprawl

VM Sprawl

(also Virtual Machine Sprawl)

VM Sprawl definition

VM Sprawl is the uncontrolled growth of virtual machines within an environment. Virtualization technologies have made it easy to create and deploy VMs. That; why sometimes organizations end up with a large number of VMs that are underutilized, not properly managed, or even forgotten.

See also: virtual machine migration, storage virtualization, host virtual machine

VM sprawl poses several challenges:

  • Resource Waste. Unused VMs consume resources like storage, memory, and CPU cycles that could be used elsewhere.
  • Increased costs. The more VMs there are, the higher the costs. These include licensing fees for software and potential hardware expansion needs.
  • Management overhead. A high number of VMs requires more oversight.
  • Security risks. Forgotten VMs probably won’t receive necessary security updates, which makes them potential vulnerabilities in the network.
  • Backup and recovery issues. VM sprawl can lead to challenges in data protection strategies — it’s difficult to back up and recover information from unmanaged virtual machines.

Causes of VM Sprawl:

  • Ease of VM creation: With virtualization, creating a new VM is often just a matter of a few clicks.
  • Lack of VM lifecycle management: VMs continue to exist long after their useful life has ended.
  • No clear ownership: If it’s unclear who is responsible for a VM, it continues to exist without oversight.

Managing VM Sprawl:

  • Implement a robust VM lifecycle management policy.
  • Regularly audit and review VM utilization and purpose.
  • Establish clear ownership and accountability for each VM.
  • Use tools and solutions that offer visibility into the virtual environment.
  • Educate and train staff on best practices for VM creation, utilization, and decommissioning.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security