Server virtualization has been around for more than a decade, but has generally been only used by large enterprises. However we believe there is a growing case for SMEs and the educational sector to utilise this technology, which can bring substantial benefits. Initially there may be additional hardware and software expenditure, but CIOs and IT managers should not look at this as prohibitive.
Physical cost saving
Depending on your current business infrastructure requirements there are several cost savings to be had, principally reduction in physical server space requirement as one physical server will happily maintain several virtual servers, depending on hard disk space and memory allocation, plus virtualization is highly scaleable.
As most servers sit idle with their resources and power being underutilised most of the time, it is good idea, especially for your green credentials, to reduce the number of physical servers and at the same time leverage the available processing power by using virtualization – this will allow much more efficient use of the hardware; this is achieved by allocating the exact level of CPU, memory and storage resources that the server needs thus driving measurable cost savings, potentially quite significant especially in larger set ups.
Regarding power consumption, if you consider that the average server is rated at between 500 and 1200 watts, using the lower rating, assuming the server is on 24/365, that equates to £565.02 per server per year (500 watts * 24 / 1000 = 12 KWh x 365 = 4380 Kwh per year x 0.129p = £565.02 per year). Additionally there is the benefit of lower air conditioning/cooling requirements, reduced UPS loads and a small physical space allocation. Just imaging the saving that could be achieved if 8 physical servers were reduced to 2 physical running 4 virtual servers each.
Operational efficiency and cost benefits
From an operational point of view virtual server environments are highly available and recoverable, allowing seamless deployment with the ability to create and deploy new servers from a master template in minutes, literally with just a few clicks of a mouse. Tools are available to migrate entire servers to the virtual environment. Resource hungry applications can be isolated on an individual server at low or no extra cost. Legacy applications that were once hardware specific can be migrated to a virtual environment extending their life and mitigating legacy hardware failures. Disaster recovery is improved by allowing a server snap shot to be recovered to a different virtual environment in a different location, and as the virtual servers are running in a condensed environment it is more cost effective and straightforward to establish a Disaster Recovery replication solution, and it is easier to conduct failover testing of disaster recovery plans.
In addition, there are many features in the virtual world which are not available with physical servers, one particular is the ability to implement “high availability”, consisting of multiple physical host servers across which the virtual servers can be spread and if needs be use “live migration” to swap from one host to another without any downtime in case of outages, planned maintenance etc. This kind of set up also offers the benefits of fault tolerance and the ability to migrate storage across the physical host servers.
Another great benefit of a virtualized platform is the capability it allows for use as a lab or test environment enabling research and development to be undertaken which an be crucial in forward planning for you business and its IT infrastructure.
Since all the operating systems on a virtual host server can be administered through a single interface, and systems can be given more computing resources as needed, it can be much easier to manage multiple virtual servers than a dozen separate physical systems. Each operating system must still be managed separately, but add-on tools are available to simplify that process as well.
Easy Scalability as a Business Grows
As a small business grows into a medium business and possibly becomes an enterprise, the use of virtual servers allows for easy scalability as a company adds employees, applications, and networking. Staff are also able to provision servers with less impact to the business in a virtual environment offering more flexibility.
We have migrated several schools over to virtualized platforms in the last couple of years and both the school and Deep South as their IT systems administrators see tangible benefits as a result of the process – for instance we have been able to reduce costs & improve energy efficiency by consolidating physical hardware and in doing so increase fault tolerance and also give us the ability to deploy test systems which is generally otherwise impossible in this type of continuous live environment.
In one particular school, we have created an additional domain controller on the virtual system and migrated a legacy library system from a standalone server which has actually resulted in it performing significantly more reliably than it did before.
One of our ideas for schools moving forward is to roll out a virtualized desktop infrastructure to further extend the use of ageing hardware, significantly reducing replacement costs whilst creating a secure, centralised and uniform computing environment.
Virtualization might seem like an IT technicians dream toy, but virtual environments are serious operational workhorses that will reduce costs and improve business efficiency.
“For businesses of just about any size it is really a win-win situation to switch to a virtualised solution…”
If you would like to arrange a consultation about virtualizing your systems or discuss any aspect of our products or services, then please contact us via e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone on 020 325 5000.
We look forward to working with you.
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