Virtualization: The key to driving efficiency
Virtualization is recognized as a key to better utilization of servers, which by extension will lead to more efficient data centers. Increasingly, however, it’s also being seen as the foundation on which all other efficiency endeavors should be built.
Compared to just a few years ago, virtualization is much more reliable and effective and is considered a proven technology. Much of the current generation of application and management software is written with virtualization in mind, which is essential to providing the redundancy and scalability needed to spread workloads over larger numbers of servers to achieve higher efficiencies.
“Three years ago virtualization was a new technology that was neither as reliable or as effective as it is now, with all of the redundant features it has today,” said Dennis Tolliver, enterprise server channel sales specialist at Hewlett-Packard. “And if they do go with virtualization, they can get as much as a 50 percent greater reduction if they go with newer server platforms also, rather than simply consolidating in place on older servers.”
Agencies need to think long-term, he said, developing a three-to-five-year outlook on their investments in the data center. So it’s not just what they’ll save today on their data center renovation, but what they will save over the next few years due to improved performance and efficiencies. “Doing it that way I think they’ll see that the payback will be very quick,” Tolliver said.
Go beyond the traditional idea of efficiencies and virtualization offers even more. It’s driving more innovative and cost effective methods of data recovery, image manage, lifecycle management and even backup, among other things.
“When we work with agencies on virtualization, they certainly start out by looking to traditional elements of efficiency, such as the power and cooling savings they will make,” said Keenan Baker, inside solutions architect for servers and storage at CDW Government (CDW-G). “But as they go through the implementation, they also realize it eases a lot of other issues, such as bringing machines on line faster and easier, which also translates into cost savings.”
It could take some time for this to become part of the mainstream, however. By and large, agencies are turning to virtualization with traditional expectations of power and cooling savings, said Baker. Other benefits, such as enhanced management capabilities and consolidation of management interfaces, don’t yet figure into a lot of buying decisions.
“Long term, they certainly see a lot of cost savings through virtualization,” he said, “but there are a lot of these other, more intangible things to do with overall data center efficiency that they have trouble putting numbers to.”
It might also require a change in the way even settled ideas associated with virtualization are considered. The FDCCI, for example, requires agencies to look at server virtualization as an increase in the number of virtual servers on each physical host, but that might not be an adequate indicator of efficiencies.
What most organizations mean when they say they are near full virtualization is that they are running virtualization on something like 80 percent of their servers, said David Cappuccio, managing vice president at Gartner responsible for data center research. But if you ask them what the server performance levels are in peak hours, it’s only in the mid-20s.
“What they should be looking at instead is what those peak performance levels are, then set a target for what they want them to be, and then put enough workload on the servers to hit that target,” he said. “Sometimes it could be one or two workloads, other times 40, but the idea is to get the most performance out of the servers during peak hours, and that way they’d get the most data center utilization.”