Virtualization is simply a term attached to some technology that allows multiple instances of an operating system on the same hardware. Think about a car’s engine. It runs more than just the wheels. Some of its power is used to run the al-ternator, air conditioning, etc. All these are sepa-rate and independent systems, but they share the power of the car’s engine.
Why did anyone invent this? Well, there are many reasons but the primary one is that most computers’ processors (CPUs) are underutilized. By us-ing virtualization we can use that excess compu-ting power to do other things.
Why not just run more software on the server? The primary reason here is compatibility. Some server software can run side-by-side in the same operat-ing system (OS) and others must be run separately. In addition, by separating your server workloads you prevent a problem with the server OS from taking everything you use offline.
What other benefits are there? There are a lot of other benefits. Some of these include:
Load balancing – this is the ability to have multiple com-puters (servers) and to move the workloads around to optimize the use of your hardware.
High availability – this is the ability to have your workloads move (manually or automatically) from one computer to another in the event of a problem. Let’s say you have an accounting program that uses a server to store its data. If that workload is virtualized and the hardware it runs on has a problem, the workload can be moved to another computer and you have little or no downtime.
Portability – along the same lines as high-availability, port-ability means that your workloads can be run on just about any hardware (that supports virtualization). This means you are no longer tied to a brand or architec-ture for your servers.
Just ask any of the technicians at BK Business Systems about the difficulty of moving an existing server’s workload to new and different hardware.
Compatibility – OK so I listed this one above but it’s worth mentioning again because virtualization allows you to run older software for longer. If you have an aging server that has Windows Server 2003 (an OS that is almost 10 years old!) you can virtualize the OS onto new hardware without upgrading anything. This is a beautiful thing for legacy software that many businesses use that can’t run on the newer operating systems.
Is special hardware required? Not really. You need hardware that supports virtualization but most modern servers do. Virtualization can run on workstations but generally it is reserved for servers. NCS can help you determine what hardware you would need to purchase and/or what hardware you already own that could be “virtualized”.
You will want to have plenty of RAM (memory), disk space and network capacity on your physical servers to support your virtu-al workloads.
How long has virtualization been around? Some would say it has been around since the 1970’s in some form. Practically speaking it really began to take off in 2003/2004. It really hit its stride in 2008/2009 with new capabilities and lower prices (Microsoft’s Hyper-V was released in 2008 for free). Today we see it being widely adopted by businesses large and small.
In summary, by using virtualization you can do more with less hardware (fewer physical servers), reduce downtime by taking advantage of high-availability and portability and save money by maximizing your use of hardware, reducing the time it takes to recover from a failure and keeping your workloads running.
by Grant Thompson