Virtualization Explained Part 2: Business Virtualization

The value of virtualization has been found by businesses because of the opportunity it gave legacy applications to continue working without tying up a physical computer. This in turn led to the next big virtualization virtue: server consolidation.

If you can avoid having to maintain old hardware for an outdated platform by running a system within a virtual PC there is no reason you can’t avoid maintaining new hardware by continuing to virtualize your systems. By using virtualization you are able to combine multiple workloads all on the one physical computer. Although this equates to less machines, the overall work performed, and the number of environments represented, does not decrease in any way.

Imagine a medium to large scale business that houses a data centre with racks and racks of servers. Each one of these is performing a task of some kind. One could be a mail server, one a print server and several would be dedicated to a range of applications including small rarely-used apps that are only required by one person, a situation that most companies can find themselves in.

If you imagine that each on of these computers is taking up space in the building. They are using a lot of power, and require constant cooling, all of which costs lots of money. Now image the systems administrator when the business come along and announces they’ve bought another special-purpose piece of software that needs its own web server not tied up for any other purpose.

The systems admin has two options. He can order new hardware, taking up space and adding upkeep cost, or if he’s clever he will recognize he can use the capacity within the existing servers. This is where consolidation comes into its own, as you could run two (or more) entirely independent and even conflicting virtualized computers on the one set of hardware, which will prove much more energy efficient than two individual computers would be.

Some businesses have found that they can cut the number of servers in their organization by consolidating them as virtual servers. This can help deliver he cost savings, and help a company who wants to turn that little bit greener.

In addition to this, virtualization cuts the dependency between an operating system and the underlying computer hardware. Typically, when setting up a server there is a lot of work involved configuring the computer itself. The computers setup is largely tied in to that machine. If you wanted to upgrade to a more powerful computer you generally cannot simply backup the computer and the restore onto the new system. Generally, you must go through the format, installation and setup process from the start.

This is not the case with virtualization. As the file system is merely a file on a disk, and the virtual computer is protected from the real hardware, by working through an abstraction layer which is provided by the software implementing your virtual environments.

You can now replace your hardware with a more powerful computer that need not bare any resemblance to your previous system. The virtualized systems won’t mind. Just copy their disk files over and you’re up and running once more, and unless something has went completely wrong they’ll pick off from where they left off.

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