5 flavors of virtualization that trim data center needs
Fight mushrooming data center costs with these types of virtualization
Server virtualization: Server hardware became so relatively cheap during the past decade that it was a simple decision for agencies to buy new machines to fill perceived demand, which led to server sprawl and a growth in the number and size of data centers. It also drove inefficiencies, leading to such low utilization of server capacity that, for typical x86 servers, two-thirds of the power they use ends up doing nothing useful.
The most popular form of server virtualization — and the one most often used for data center consolidation — uses software such as VMware and Microsoft’s Virtual Server or Hyper-V Server to create multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine. A hypervisor coordinates activity between the physical processor and those virtual machines.
Storage virtualization: This is a way of taking the multitude of physical disk drives that most organizations need to manage as separate assets and combine them, using virtual abstraction software, so that, to the physical or virtual servers that need to access them, they appear to be a single storage device. Applications on those servers no longer need to know which specific drive or partition their data resides on.
As with server virtualization, this saves on costs because the utilization of the physical storage units is improved, power and cooling needs are lowered, and management complexity is decreased. Virtualized storage also allows for dynamic provisioning of storage resources which, adding to similar capabilities provided by server virtualization, leads to better continuity of operations and disaster recovery.
Network virtualization: One drawback of data center consolidation is that it can put added pressure on the wide-area network, increasing network costs or causing deterioration of the end-user experience. Network virtualization can help alleviate that by basically providing each virtual server with its own virtual network and bandwidth. Each of those channels can be separately secured.
Since one of the main advantages of a consolidated, virtualized data center outside efficiency and cost improvements is the ability it provides an agency to rapidly scale its compute resources to meet changing demands, that also requires the network to provide the same capabilities. In that sense, a virtualized network infrastructure is a necessary adjunct to data center consolidation.
Desktop virtualization: Conceptually, this is a return to the old server/client model in which operating systems, applications and services are provisioned, managed and deployed on the server before being delivered to the desktop. That saves on costs and drives efficiencies in a number of ways, mainly in not having to deal with application and operating system upgrades on the hundreds or thousands of individual desktop computers deployed throughout an agency.
Although it doesn’t have a direct influence on data center consolidation itself, desktop virtualization can be an added incentive in terms of the overall costs of the IT infrastructure. It can, for example, employ thin-client machines that, stripped of the usual hard drives that operate systems and powerful processors found on traditional desktop PCs, are much cheaper to buy and operate. However, with desktop virtualization, overall performance of the agency WAN also becomes even more important.
Application virtualization: With this, applications are run from a server and delivered to the desktop without them having to run on the desktop computer’s operating system and without having to rely on that computer’s file systems and registry. One instance of that application can therefore service a number of different users, which leads to reduced costs in terms of hardware and software licensing and also to expanded flexibility since applications can be provided to users as needed.
Although it's not something that affects consolidations directly, application virtualization adds to the overall IT infrastructure cost picture. It can be used along with desktop virtualization to improve service provisioning for users, or it can replace the need for desktop virtualization.