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What does Server Virtualization Mean?
Server virtualization is the use of technology to separate software, including the operating system, from the hardware. This means that you can run several environments on the same physical server. In some installations, this could mean that several identical operating systems are run on the same machine. Other shops could decide to run a Windows platform, a Linux system, and an UNIX environment on a single server.
Advantages of Server Virtualization
In today’s demanding business environment, server virtualization offers many different advantages. Not only does virtualization allow servers and data to be more mobile than ever, it also provides a cost-effective way to balance flat or shrinking budgets. The following list details the major benefits:
• Consolidation – Most large servers run applications that only take up a small percentage of their processing power. Even busy software packages usually only have small peak times that utilize over 50% of their CPU capabilities. The rest of the time, the capacity is unused. By virtualizing the server so that additional systems can take advantage of under-utilized resources, IT shops can increase their return-on-investment (ROI). Although some companies have reported a consolidation ratio as high as 12:1, most shops can easily show a 3:1 to 4:1 rate.
• Decreased Footprint – By decreasing the number of physical servers, the size of the computer room can be reduced and utility costs should decrease.
• Lower Hardware Costs – The utilization of a higher percentage of existing hardware resources will reduce the total number of physical servers that are needed. This will save money on the upfront expense of purchasing hardware and the long-term cost of maintenance.
• Flexibility – Server virtualization allows an IT shop to be much more flexible. Instead of waiting for new hardware to arrive before implementing a new system, a new virtual server can be created on an existing machine. This also provides a more flexible method for migration and disaster recovery.
• Easier Testing and Development – Historically, IT installations have used separate physical servers for their development, acceptance testing, and production environments. With virtualization, it is an easy process to create either different or identical operating environments on the same server. This allows developers to compare performance on several different environments without impacting the stability of the production system.
Virtualization and Disaster Recovery
The growth in both international business and large-scale natural disasters has many organizations closely analyzing their disaster recovery plans and general hardware malfunction procedures. In either event, it is critical to be back up and running in a very short period of time. Most modern IT shops require consistent up-time 24-hours a day to maintain their core operations, or their business will be severely impacted. Both reliability and accessibility are greatly improved when server virtualization is used to its fullest potential.
By reducing the total number of servers needed to duplicate the production environment, it is much less expensive to create and test an off-site disaster recovery environment. Hardware, space, and backup expenses are dramatically reduced. It’s easy to see how setting up 30 or 40 pieces of hardware would be both easier and cheaper than configuring 100 items.
Along the same lines, a hardware malfunction will be less of an issue with server virtualization. While many more systems will run on the same piece of hardware, most shops find that they can easily duplicate physical servers for automatic rollover in the event of a hardware failure when they virtualize.
Major Virtualization Products
While there are always smaller players in any new technology, VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server are the biggest providers of server virtualization products.
• VMware offers the free VMware Server package or the more robust VMware ESX and ESXi products. Systems that are virtualized by VMware products are extremely portable and can be installed on virtually any new piece of hardware with a low incidence of complications. The system can be suspended on one machine, moved to another one, and immediately resume operations at the suspense point when restarted.
• Microsoft Virtual Server is a virtualization product that works best with the Windows operating systems, but can also run other systems like the popular Linux OS.