Server virtualization is perhaps the biggest technology advancement for corporate IT in more than a decade. Virtualization is the foundation for much of cloud services in use today, and has revolutionized business IT systems.
Why is that? To understand the impact of virtualization, let’s look at some of the major benefits.
Hardware abstraction – Maybe the biggest single benefit, virtualization allows enterprises to consolidate hardware by allowing multiple virtual servers to be installed onto a single physical server. This reduces the number of physical servers, along with data center space and power. All of this allows enterprises to reduce their footprint, and their costs. Not only does this reduce hardware costs, it also reduces the support costs for that hardware, both from the standpoint of support plans that come with physical servers, and the administration costs associated with physical hardware support.
Consolidation of workloads – Virtualization is all about the optimization of your physical hardware, to make it more efficient. Closely tied to the point above, virtualization allows you to bring workloads into a more concentrated physical infrastructure, which gives your enterprise a higher bang for the buck when it comes to utilization and efficiency of your environment. The more consistently you can utilize the CPU and memory of a given set of physical hardware, the more efficiently you utilize the resource, and the less money that needs to be spent on additional hardware.
Remote Management – Virtual environments offer more options for remote management tasks and replication activities than physical servers. In virtual environments, servers can be implemented remotely, without the need for physical proximity, unlike physical servers which require physical installation. Likewise, virtual platforms offer the ability to remotely replicate servers and storage, to provide greater business continuance and resilience. Now, with virtual environments, things like disaster recovery become much more effective, as individual server instances can be instantly replicated, and stored in a remote location or public cloud.
Storage replication and encapsulation – Just as with servers, virtual platforms offer a greater range of options when it comes to storage management. Because the storage isn’t tied to a physical architecture or set of discs, it can be replicated between virtual servers, or integrated with a cloud storage platform. This provide an inherent level of data replication and business continuance. Data can be stored completely in a cloud environment and accessed by your virtual servers, or it can be stored locally and replicated to a public cloud, ensuring that your data remains protected and available at all times.
Improved systems administration – Virtual environments make systems administration easier in many areas, largely because a single administration system can manage the servers, storage and networking for the environment. And while individual server instances may need some level of individual attention, the underlying infrastructure can all be managed from a ‘single-pane of glass’, i.e. a unified management console. Likewise, tasks that aid the enterprise, such as data and server replication, and network infrastructure, can all be implemented much more quickly and efficiently in a virtual environment.
These are the primary benefits of virtualization, but there are more. Especially as technologies such as software-defined networking, which are designed specifically to work with and within virtual environments, become available and widespread, virtualization will lead to even greater options for supporting the business and scaling IT resources quickly and efficiently to meet the needs of the business.