This white paper defines virtualization and focuses on how certain trends, such as server virtualization, are changing the datacenter. We'll look at what makes virtualization so compelling to companies in terms of efficiencies, improved resource utilization, cost reductions, and automation, to name a few. We'll also address the ways in which virtualization optimizes the performance of servers, desktops, applications, and users.
Virtualization has fundamentally changed computing in a way that was unforeseen as recently as five years ago. Every area of the economy that utilizes computing has been impacted, from financial, telecom, and healthcare sectors to retail, manufacturing, media, and government. In addition to improving key data center processes, such as Business Continuity (BC) and High Availability (HA), virtualization provides companies with flexibility, cost savings, and disaster recovery options critical to their success. A recent study by Forrester Research reported that data virtualization will grow to $8 billion by 2014.
But what exactly is virtualization and how can it help your company? The term 'virtualization' can be applied to many aspects of an IT infrastructure: applications, networks, storage, hardware, and end-users. In this white paper, we'll define virtualization and focus on how certain trends, such as server virtualization, are changing the datacenter. We'll look at what makes virtualization so compelling to companies in terms of efficiencies, improved resource utilization, cost reductions, and automation, to name a few. We'll also address the ways in which virtualization optimizes the performance of servers, desktops, applications, and users.
What Is Virtualization?
Simply put, server virtualization consists of running multiple operating systems and applications on the same server at the same time. This eliminates the traditional, yet inefficient, model with its 1-to-1 correspondence between a dedicated server and a single operating system (OS). The current process of partitioning one physical server into several operating systems, or virtual machines (VMs), lets you simultaneously deploy, operate, and manage these multiple operating system instances on that single physical server. This offers enormous expansion opportunities for accommodating increased numbers of applications and unique users.
The concept of virtualization originated back in the era of mainframes. Today's advances, especially the introduction of Intel x86 architecture and inexpensive PCs, have finally made virtualization technology possible. This innovation has enabled companies of all sizes to flexibly accommodate a multitude of users, extend the life of their datacenters, and save on hardware purchases and utility costs, in addition to streamlining server administration.
Moreover, virtualization has substantially leveled the economic playing field, enabling small to medium businesses (SMBs) to compete and reach parity with much larger enterprises, something that was impossible a few years ago. Using server virtualization, these SMBs can quickly generate enormous computing power to handle a greater number of tasks while achieving energy, hardware, and management savings.
For SMBs, virtualization increases application availability and can dramatically shorten disaster recovery time to significantly improve business continuity preparedness.
For enterprises, virtualization offers levels of efficiency in security, management, automation, and VM deployment as well as the ability to provide increased resources to more users. Across the board, virtualization allows enterprises and SMBs to reduce the number of physical machines in their data centers while maximizing the number of underlying applications.
Advantages of Virtualization
There are a number of key areas in which virtualization offers companies important benefits:
Energy efficiency: By stacking multiple applications on a single server and sharing resources among them, virtualization optimizes server utilization and cuts waste. It eliminates single-application servers that use up exponential amounts of energy in processing and cooling. Lessening the physical size of datacenters also results in energy efficiency, decreased hardware costs, and maintenance savings.
Improved server utilization: Consolidating multiple operating systems on a single piece of hardware maximizes server usage. Removing the physical relationship between an OS and its native hardware with virtualization greatly expands server capacity and avoids under-utilization where, in some instances, single servers use less than 30 percent of their processing power.
Architecture control: Virtualization enables companies of all sizes to simplify datacenter architecture. For example, eliminating inefficient servers and co-location centers enables a re-definition of the datacenter. Virtualization not only provides built-in redundancy by spreading the computing power across multiple inexpensive machines, it also ensures a server resource pool. This offers exponential performance capacity over a single, mid-range system and combined with virtualized networks and storage significantly changes today's datacenter architecture.
Automation: The role of automation means that VMs can be copied, administered, and restored easily. Tasks, such as patch management, are simplified and administrators are freed up for other IT projects. Single-console management of VMs adds another layer of efficiency and increases response times during emergencies. The ability to shift VMs or other resources to a different server is another key feature. Administrators can conduct maintenance without interrupting service, disabling a system, or having to work off-hours.