In 2008, there was a lot of talk around communications devices, but in many corporations one of the hottest IT topics was a technology called “virtualization”. So I’ll start the new year by explaining what virtualization is and why you might be interested in it.
Simply put, virtualization is a way of making a single computer do the work of many. As organizations buy more and more powerful hardware, they often find themselves with too much equipment and with capacity than is not being used.
With virtualization technology, these organizations can partition pieces of a single computer and use it for multiple purposes, efficiently using its capacity.
Without virtualization, companies often use multiple pieces of hardware, called servers, each one running a particular piece of software, confusingly also called a server. So the software servers, such as Windows Server (used for sharing files and running applications), SQL Server (used for corporate databases), Exchange Server (used for email), Internet Information Server (used for hosting websites), etc., each run on their own computer.
If each computer is only partially utilized, there can be tremendous waste in the cost of equipment, electricity, floor space, air conditioning, etc.
With virtualization, any number of software servers can run on a single computer, optimizing the use of hardware. In fact, even desktop operating systems like Windows XP, Vista, or Linux can be run in a virtual environment, and so can individual program applications. How they are configured is controlled by utilities that you use to allocate available hardware to your needs. These utilities allow you to set up “virtual machines”, whereby you allocate pieces of the computer’s central processing unit, memory, hard drive, and other resources, to each virtual machine.
The other way you can save money is with software licences. By using application virtualization, software does not have to be installed on each individual desktop. A user can run an application as if it is running locally, but it actually runs on the server. By not having to install on every workstation you can save money by purchasing only enough licenses for times of maximum usage. For example, if only half the users run a particular application at any given time, by virtualizing it you only have to buy half the number of licenses you would otherwise need.
There are also savings on server software costs. With Windows Server 2008 Standard you can install the Host system and one virtual server under the same license. With Windows Server 2008 Enterprise you can install the Host system and four virtual servers under the same license. This new operating system has enhanced terminal services which can make remote services from other vendors redundant in some instances, thereby saving on those costs, as well.
Virtualization provides other benefits besides saving money. Virtualization can be really handy for testing, where you can set up multiple versions of operating systems, conduct your tests, and then take them down. Another advantage is fast disaster recovery. If a physical server goes down, all you need to do is bring the virtual servers back up on another computer. And it is all more secure; with virtual desktops, all the processing gets done on the server and the data stays on the server as well, not on local computers.
The leading manufacturer for virtualization for years has been a company called VMware, based in Palo Alto, California, but Microsoft has entered the game in a big way with its Virtual Server system and its just-released Hyper-V virtualization technology.
If you want to learn more about virtualization, Nicom IT Solutions will be putting on a free seminar in Halifax in the near future; drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will make sure you get an invitation.