Make Virtual a Reality

July 15, 2008 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

The ‘old school’ method of deploying new services within an organization mandated one service equals one server. Medium sized business needed to employ a small army of well trained administrators and establish a data center to house the ever growing number of servers and other network devices. The result was many business owners questioning the efficiency and cost effectiveness of moving into the age of technology.

Even now as computer hardware engineers and software developers are making advances that reduce the amount of energy consumed they have been unable to solve the dilemma of the ever-expanding data center.

At least that was the case. In recent years the collaborated efforts of hardware and software designers have resulted in virtual machine technology that allows IT managers to take back the reins of the runaway data center.

Virtual machine technology provides the ability to run multiple ‘servers’ on a single hardware platform, in essence allowing IT departments to encapsulate existing systems and host them on a single hardware platform. Rather than deploying a number of small servers, each hosting a basic function (DNS, corporate website, Windows Update Service), it is now possible to consolidate the services onto a single hardware platform thereby drastically reducing power consumption.

Usually at this point in the conversation someone will bring up the ‘all-your-eggs-in-one-basket’ argument. In other words: aren’t you setting yourself up for failure is you put all your mission critical servers on a single piece of hardware? To be blunt – Yes. When creating virtual servers you need to take the same precautions you would when deploying any mission critical service. Sufficient power and bandwidth along with backup and recovery/redundancy should be your first concerns.

Power and bandwidth concerns should be addressed in your selection of the hardware platform that will ultimately become your virtual hosting server. If you are operating on a limited budget, look for a model that has the ability to be upgraded later on. It’s easier to add extra disks or network cards a year or two down the road than to buy and deploy an entirely new server. At a minimum look for a platform that has redundant power supplies and two network interfaces. The remaining options (disk, CPU, RAM) will be decided by the operating systems and/or the applications that you plan on deploying.

Backup and recovery are areas where going virtual really shines. While you can still use traditional methods of backing up a virtual machine since, in essence it is still a server, virtual machines have the ability to have a snapshot taken allowing instant recovery back to the point where the snapshot was taken. If you’ve ever had a server crash following a patch or update, you can likely see the value in this feature. Additionally, virtual servers are (generally) not platform dependent. This means that you can move the server from one supporting architecture to another without degradation or loss of data. Again, if you’ve ever experienced a critical hardware failure this means you could quickly move the virtual machine to another server and be back online in a matter of minutes allowing you to continue critical business operations while you resolve the hardware issues. There are some virtualization companies that offer tools to perform recovery operations automatically.

While much more could be written extolling the virtues of virtualization the main idea that we’re working to promote is CONSOLIDATION. Consolidating your existing IT infrastructure will not only allow you to conserve energy, but ultimately put you on the road to more profits.

By briansrapier

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Entry filed under: Emerging Technologies, Energy, Information Technology, Virtual Machines. Tags: , , , .

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