While server virtualization has actually been available for more than a decade, many IT professionals still refer to it as a relatively new technology. The comfort and familiarity of a world made up of only physical servers caused many to resist even looking into the virtual platform, but changes in the overall technology landscape are forcing some to re-think implementing this technology, especially because of its enhanced performance.
Here, we will take a closer look at some of those benefits.
Some of the first benefits noted by IT professionals was the significant cost reduction in moving network servers from the physical-only to virtual servers. One very sophisticated virtual server, with all the respective bells and whistles needed to keep it operating at maximum efficiency may come with a hefty price tag; however, it generally only comes to fraction of the cost of replacing a number of physical servers and equipping each of them with the respective software necessary. Plus, the energy costs would obviously drop significantly.
The benefits hardly stop there, though. The ability to recover from server malfunctioning increases exponentially with a virtual server. For example, if your network operates with eight individual physical servers and one of them experiences a major malfunction, that server stays down until the computer can be fixed (which, as well all know, can take days). By stark contrast, with a network running on, say, two or three virtual servers, when one of those servers goes down, the machines operating off that one failed virtual server can be brought up again on one of the other servers in - get this - mere minutes.
Wait, it gets better. With a virtual server, you almost always purchase a hypervisor operating system. In effect, the hypervisor software manages the tasks in the cloud to assure everything is functioning properly and in an orderly manner. By investing in a more advanced hypervisor operating system, downtime is virtually eliminated because the software can be programmed to instantly and automatically transfer the operating functions from a failed system to the other server(s).
Anyone who has worked on a network for any length of time probably has nightmares surrounding disaster recovery. When your network of physical-only servers is lost due to some unexpected occurrence (like tornadoes, fires, etc.), it can take days or even weeks of nearly round-the-clock effort to restore each of those servers, especially when your network is operating from a number of separate physical-only servers. Virtualization eliminates the challenge of individually rebuilding each server; instead, the network administrators can rebuild one single host server, reinstall the hypervisor software. Virtual machines are backed up onto tape; thus, once the host server and hypervisor are back in place, the data backed up onto that tape can easily be used to restart the virtual machines. This process will likely save your days, or even weeks, in the even of an actual disaster situation.
The virtualization world, no matter which platform you choose, will offer up such buzzwords as distributed resource scheduling, fault tolerance, live migration, high availability and storage migration. In short, these buzzwords simply suggest an ability to continue running seamlessly as well as the capacity to recover swiftly from any unexpected outages. This capacity is virtually unheard of with physical servers and can make your work life much easier.
Finally, speaking of network buzzwords, you've undoubtedly been inundated with talk about moving, sooner or later, to "the cloud." Whether you're for it or against it, the move to network virtualization brings you one giant leap closer to a move to "the cloud" whenever your organization chooses to implement it.
To properly deploy your network into virtualization, the same types of best practices that would routinely be observed with physical servers should also be in effect with virtualized servers. The lack of proper management of a virtual system can leave your network open to malware and other security threats. However, with the proper understanding, implementation and backups, the virtual network can open you up to performance and security you previously thought technologically improbable.
About the author:
Matt Smith is a Dell employee who writes to help raise awareness on the topic of Virtualization and other network management subjects.