These days we hear a lot about virtualization or rather server virtualization.
But unfortunately, most of us are really not sure what it is.
To make things clear, server virtualization is camouflaging of server resources. The characteristics of servers, processors, and OS are hidden from the server users.
Essentially it is the creation of several, logistic instances of hardware or software on a physical hardware.
There are several ways to accomplish this. A very common approach is explained below.
An application environment or a virtual machine is installed on software, which mimics dedicated server. The users’ gets an experience as if they are using dedicated hardware.
Special software called hypervisor emulates the requesting client, facilitating the virtual machine to share resources.
We must keep in mind that virtualization can require more resources than a conventional server (like bandwidth; processing power and storage), because the physical hardware hosts numerous or multiple virtual machines.
But server virtualization has benefits that far outweigh drawbacks.
Today it is part of holistic virtualization strategy in IT companies to achieve autonomic computing (a self-managing computing model based on the human body’s autonomic nervous system). The objective is to experience storage virtualization, network virtualization and overall workload management.
“We want an environment that creates systems capable of running on their own, delivering high level of performance while keeping the systems’ intricacies hidden from the user”.
One of the cornerstones of virtualization is it enable Information Technology companies to leverage this technology to its optimum. In such a scenario, the technology is distributed not only in the data center but in the branch offices as well.
“When server virtualization permeates our company, we are able to deploy a large variety of functions wherever needed in a cost effective manner”.
One of the compelling advantages of virtualization is that the cost of acquisition of virtualization software is substantially lower than a hardware-based machine with the same functionality.
It is without any doubt that server virtualization has transformed the landscape in a data center. Companies are firming up workloads from underutilized servers and experiencing large reductions in office space, power and cooling requirements.
A Chief Information Technology officer rightly pointed out, “It does not make sense to buy additional hardware because there are performance issues. Overheads will only will depreciate and swell the operational costs”.
In an IT firm it was found that the utilization rates in a well-consolidated data center was just around 25%.
Virtualization of more than 80% of the applications resulted in elimination of over two-thirds of the machines. This is certainly a substantial gain.
To cap it all, cloud computing functionality was appended to the virtualization solution to enable rapid scaling.
In this environment the existing storage is concealed from the service that requires it. A single hardware will effectively run several file systems to enable or support multiple operating systems without the requirement for fixing partitions.
By synchronizing virtualization with resources such as bandwidth or connection in a network, several services can share the same bandwidth.
When services running on a machine interact with the available resources in the hardware, a virtualization layer can make the resources invisible and allow the service to be shared.
In spite of the advantages, adoption of virtualization is facing challenges.
Here are certain points that must be considered to ensure success of a server virtualization model.
In the absence of virtualization most companies run applications on dedicated servers. More often than not, these servers are located in-house. With virtualization, instances can be made to run on an assortment of virtual servers or on a physical server that is shared by numerous applications.
The advantages of such an environment must be clearly explained to the clients, including cost benefits and the implications of fast depreciating hardware.
Alongside making virtualization a business case, the IT department of the company must gear itself for a change.
The staff must be able to cope up with tasks related with physical to virtual migration, maintenance and security.
New problems can crop up when server virtualization is introduced. The IT experts must be able to address issues such as backup, risk management, and disaster recovery.
Before jumping on the virtualization bandwagon, companies must examine their current portfolio of applications and assess their value for future business.
As a concluding remark, virtualization is a mature technology. With necessary expertise it will allow challenges to be overcome and the rewards to be significant.