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Virtualization: An Overview

Virtualization: An Overview

Virtualization has been around for decades, and yet it is still becoming more and more ubiquitous throughout IT infrastructures, while also becoming essential to daily IT operations worldwide. In fact, over 75% of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have already adopted some form of virtualization in their IT environment. So what is virtualization and what are some of the benefits it offers to SMBs and SMEs? While there are various different forms of virtualization, such as desktop virtualization (VDI), application virtualization, and network virtualization, we will be focusing on the management and reliability benefits of server virtualization in this article.

Server virtualization software creates a software layer above the physical server(s) that makes logical sense of all of the server(s) hardware – allowing IT administrators to allocate the combined server resources as needed. Prior to server virtualization, a single server was needed for each application, regardless of whether or not the application required or utilized all of the server’s available hardware. This problem of wasted resources was solved with server virtualization, which allowed IT Administrators to effectively create multiple ‘virtual’ servers (called virtual machines, or VMs) from a single physical server and therefore host multiple applications within a single server. Administrators could now also leverage the compute and storage resources from multiple physical servers to tackle performance-intensive applications – reducing network latency and opening the door to new applications that were otherwise impossible or cost-prohibitive to implement. However, perhaps the greatest benefit realized by companies from server virtualization is the enhanced management capability.

Most server virtualization software, called a hypervisor, includes a management interface where the administrator can create VMs, allocate storage and compute resources, and monitor performance usage and bottlenecks. With server virtualization, IT Administrators can manage the entire virtual server environment from a single interface and also have the amalgamation of server hardware resources at their disposal to utilize as they see fit. Performance bottlenecks and capacity inadequacies can now be quickly identified and remedied in a proactive manner, whereas simply identifying a bottleneck in a physical server environment can be time-consuming – not to mention the time and money needed to resolve the problem. Additionally, new servers and applications (in the form of VMs) can be created in a matter of minutes with available resources opposed to procuring and installing new hardware with the traditional server approach. Some hypervisors even offer the ability to automatically migrate VMs from one physical machine to another during off hours and power down unneeded hardware to intelligently reduce power consumption. However, while the management benefits of server virtualization are manifold, server virtualization is also advantageous in terms of infrastructure reliability.

Virtualization offers many intrinsic benefits for reliability due to its independence from server hardware. The primary benefit can be realized from the hypervisor’s response to a server hardware failure. Some hypervisors include functionality that automatically migrates VMs from the failed server to another server or server cluster without downtime. This functionality alone creates a strong case for server virtualization, as a failed server in a traditional non-virtualized environment has the capability to halt all company operations and bring an organization to its knees. Virtualization software also typically includes native replication features, making it simpler to backup and recover critical data in the event of a site disaster.

Ultimately, the benefits of server virtualization over physical servers are self-evident in respect to both management capability and reliability. However, simply virtualizing servers is often inadequate to create a true centralized and virtualized environment. Many organizations opt to implement a centralized storage device at the same time, or shortly after, they virtualize in order to consolidate all of their data to a single location for simplified management. StorTrends by American Megatrends offers multiple storage arrays with various performance levels, capacities, and price tags. If you are interested in considering a StorTrends device to complete your virtual server environment, you can receive a price estimate by completing the StorTrends Price Quote Generator form here.

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