Why Server Virtualization Helps IT Shops

The technology is a great tool for reducing costs and delivering a flexible path to the cloud.

Migrating to a converged data center involves moving from silos of technology toward a consolidated, scalable, multitenant model. The first step is to leverage server virtualization to help reduce cost and improve server-resource utilization. Virtualization offers agility and flexibility, which in turn enables server consolidation, resource sharing, reduced complexity and enhanced business continuity and disaster recovery.

In many organizations (particularly those that have not yet begun their journey to a more efficient and productive IT environment), computer servers are dedicated to specific applications. As a result, some servers are not fully utilized and the enterprise is missing an opportunity to use those resources for additional work. Moreover, an underutilized application server means the organization is actually spending more than necessary to host the application.

At the same time, when it comes to overutilized servers, other applications suffer poor performance that results in lost productivity. The result is a virtual machine (VM) that can coexist with other VMs on the same, shared physical machine, all logically isolated and secure from each other. In this consolidation scenario, instead of five physical machines (servers), there is one (or perhaps two for high availability and redundancy) with five virtual machines running on it.

The resulting virtualized server now runs at a higher utilization rate, and the five VMs and their applications improve overall performance and QoS and help IT meet general service-level objectives. Because fewer physical servers are required, IT can cut back on floor and cabinet space, power and cooling and associated server management, all of which help lower capital and operating costs.

Server consolidation and virtualization have other IT benefits, including application mobility, whereby virtual machines and the applications they run can move in and out of hardware resources as needed. The next wave of server virtualization expands IT’s focus from how many VMs can be put on a physical machine to reduce cost, to how the VMs can leverage faster servers and open up new opportunities.

For example, by using different best practices, a SQL Server database (or any other time- and/or performance-sensitive application) can be given its own physical machine during busy periods. But during off-hours, other VMs can be moved onto the same physical machine to make more efficient, round-the-clock use of the premium server resource. As a result, time- and/or performance-sensitive applications get the resources they need without being impacted by others. Meanwhile, during evening hours, in addition to performing nightly maintenance, reporting, business analytics and backup, other VMs benefit from using the faster server.

The net result is improved overall utilization of converged data center resources to support business growth and increased productivity. Server virtualization also offers a pathway to public and private cloud infrastructures by providing a mechanism for encapsulating servers, applications and data. Once encapsulated in a virtual machine, IT can easily move applications into a private or public cloud as needed.

Moreover, by decoupling data from a VM, similar to the way IT can decouple shared storage from physical servers in a traditional data center, virtualization allows greater flexibility in what types of storage the converged data center uses. For example, a VM can be local but point to remote cloud storage. Or a VM can be moved to a cloud and use storage provided by the cloud service.

For more information on server virtualization and data consolidation read the CDW•G white paper on Data Center Convergence.

Mar 06 2012