What is Virtualization?

We are often asked to explain to our clients what virtualization means for their business.   So what is virtualization? In webopedia they define virtualization as a way “to create a virtual version of a device or resource, such as a server, storage device, network or even an operating system where the framework divides the resource into one or more execution environments.”

In this article today we will explore the following areas:

  • How does virtualization support my business?
  • What are the benefits of virtualization?
  • What are the challenges of virtualization?

How does it support my business?

Firstly, what is important to know is that there are three types of virtualization options:

  • Server – this hides the physical nature of server resources, including the number and identity of individual servers, processors and operating systems, from the software running on them.
  • Storage – this combines physical storage from multiple network storage devices onto one storage device; and
  • Network – combines computing resources in a network by splitting the available bandwidth into independent channels that can be assigned to a particular server or device in real-time; and server virtualization.

In this area the most common form within the small to medium enterprise market is server virtualization.  For companies it provides an opportunity to save money by reducing the number of servers that support their business applications.  This is combined with more efficient use of computing resources and energy savings that translate into improved profit margins.

For businesses, virtualization allows owners to run multiple applications, pooling computing resources and eventually workload balancing and increasing disaster recovery.

What are the benefits?

As we discussed earlier, pooling of computing resources ensure better efficiencies for business owners.  In CIO an “analysts estimate that the average enterprise utilizes somewhere between 5% and 25% of its server capacity.“

Benefits identified earlier in this article included a reduction in hardware, thereby reducing energy consumption for the company.  The virtualization of servers can create and lead to more valuable rack space, thereby supporting the company’s expansion, and improving the deployment of administrators in managing this virtualized environment.

This flexibility is another benefit as it now becomes easier to move things around and to scale things up and down as necessary. Application environments stored on a virtual disk can be easily duplicated and archived.

In summary, a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting in the July 2009 issue, a report titled “The Business Value of Virtualization” confirmed that the top three reasons as to why businesses invested in server virtualization was to:

  • Cut hardware costs;
  • Improve business continuity and disaster recovery; and
  • Reclaim data center capacity (space and power).

Once virtualization was introduced into businesses what Forrester Consulting identified in their research was that major gains were achieved in the following areas:

  1. Faster application recovery;
  2. Improved predictability of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery; and
  3. Reduction in outages and downtime.

What are the challenges?

With virtualization the traditional coupling of hardware and software is separated.  Therefore this decoupling creates the potential for performance conflicts. Some applications may have cyclical performance profiles, so when overlapping occurs between applications during peak times you may see a slowing in performance. Understanding performance routines for the business applications that support the company becomes important for administrators.

IDC White Paper “Business Value of Virtualization: Realizing the Benefits of Integrated Solutions” in July 2008 was quoted as saying that “moving to advanced virtualization infrastructure mandates ensuring a high level of consistency in the virtual servers that run on the infrastructure.  This goal, as attractive as it sounds, contrasts starkly with the typical deployment at most companies.”

Typically virtualization vendors provide resourcing and training to support their solutions. Each environment is different, so it is up to the system administrators to know their systems.   SureSystems was one of the first partners in Calgary to introduce VMWare, a virtualized solution to their clients’ IT environment.  Providing solutions that optimize our client infrastructure environment is important to SureSystems.