Why Data Center Virtualization is a Hot Topic

You’d think Data Center Virtualization was a brand-new innovation, given its hot nature in IT sectors these days.  But predecessors of virtualization have been in use within data centers for years now; just look at Storage Area Networks, clustered servers and even on single servers running multiple operating systems.

Virtualization is a proven approach to maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of IT infrastructure resources. Traditional data center infrastructures were comprised of a variety of stand-alone systems – usually dedicated to a specific application or service. The cost of managing such systems, along with the low utilization and inefficient ROI, caused virtualization to come into play. 

For example:

  • Clustered applications allowed components of large applications (such as SAP) to be run on specific computing components, load-balancing for increased efficiency based on real-time utilization, while also sharing overall application data.
  • SANs enabled multiple standalone servers to access and interact with the same core data.
  • Virtual machines enabled IT to serve multiple operating systems on the same computers, supporting a more diverse array of applications and increasing overall resource utilization.

So why is total data center virtualization so hot these days?

  • The costs and complexity of such standalone, dedicated systems is prohibitive in today’s world.  Additionally such stand-alone systems have difficulty scaling to meet today’s massive data growth.  Nor can they deliver the level of business agility required.
  • The growth in business and personal data,  coincident with flattened IT budgets have  made virtual architectures the ideal way to increase IT efficiency and productivity, while reducing costs. 
  • Cloud computing takes virtualization to a whole new level, offering the opportunity to outsource applications and data to a third party ‘cloud’ virtual center infrastructure, or create a private cloud for corporate information processing.

Virtualization enables multiple server and storage devices to work together as a single integrated processing unit. Any number of applications can run across any number of systems, transparently and flexibly.

Virtualization involves three classes of virtualization technologies: networking, server and storage. On a network, virtualization allows one or a few machines to handle encryption, load balancing, firewall protection and other appliance services, instead of using a number of dedicated computers for each task.  The resulting reduction in cost and complexity – and corresponding management simplification – is significant. 

For large corporate environments, the savings can make the difference between staying in budget or having to cut staff and resources. Even small businesses can reap significant rewards – in both efficiency and cost reduction – by virtualizing application processing across a smaller yet shared number of servers.

Let’s review the business impact based on simplified and standardized hardware. Most agree that virtualization can offer 5 times the performance of mid-range servers as standalone systems. Compare a mid-range server ($100K) to a set of racked servers ($3,000/server). Assuming you place 10 racked servers in a virtualized pool, you’d enjoy 5 times the power of the most powerful mid-range system at a third of the cost.

Hardware cost reduction is only the beginning. Other impacts include:

  • Increased availability-One system going down doesn’t shut down application or service availability.  There is no need for redundant, standby resources.
  • Maintenance – IT personnel can take a server or an entire data center offline for maintenance, while other resources in the virtualized pool continue to provide services.
  • Ease of access – users on any device can access the information they need – regardless of their location.
  • Ease of scale – for large businesses, scaling data management and application services is dramatically simplified, as is performance optimization.

Ongoing maintenance and management offer significant efficiencies. For example,  if you have two virtualized data centers, IT can bring down one data center for maintenance,  while  continuing to deliver IT services via the second data center.   The entire operation can be accomplished transparent to users.

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface on the impact of virtualization. The benefits of virtualization apply to any size business or IT environment.  What’s your plan?


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