Virtualization differs from the traditional one server/one application environment in that software is run within a virtual environment.
These virtual environments are created when operating systems and applications are emulated, and do not run directly on physical hardware.
In a virtualized environment, you can reduce the amount of servers required – a virtual system allows you to share the physical resources of multiple machines across the entire infrastructure. Applications can then access the shared resources as and when required, resulting in a more efficient system and lower costs.
An example of a typical virtualized environment might see three physical hosts connected to a shared storage device. These hosts provide the processing and memory capacity whilst all data relating to virtual servers is stored on the Storage Area Network.
The virtual infrastructure provides far greater flexibility and extremely high availability from a simpler hardware model with fewer things to go wrong.
A key benefit is that the entire network infrastructure becomes portable – this makes disaster recovery far quicker and more effective.
Virtual machines can be moved to an alternative host in minutes. An entire virtual server can be restored with the ease with which you would use Shadow Copies to restore a previous file version. This ensures no more downtime incidents caused by issues such as severe blue screen Windows failures.
You can run as many virtual servers as your host and SAN capacity allows. If you need to expand your capacity, simply add another host which would be able to run another four or more servers (assuming typical loads).
Increasing memory or processing capacity is straightforward and cost-free – simply shut down the virtual machine, assign more memory or processing power from the shared resource pool and restart the virtual machine.
For testing purposes you can have server templates so that you can safely run your own test lab on the same physical hardware.
For example, if you wished to test a new accounting package or database, you would simply create a new virtual server and invite a select group of users to test it.
Planning for the worst is something which all businesses need to consider. Should you be unable to operate from your site, the virtual infrastructure is fully portable and can quickly be set up in our data local centre. Backups of the virtual images will mean that your systems are available within an hour or two, allowing your business to remain functional.
As virtualization requires less hardware than the traditional approach, the hardware costs are lower.
Virtualization also results in a far lower exposure to hardware failures (keeping ongoing costs low) and future expansion is significantly more cost-effective.