Virtualization has been a major buzzword in the IT world for the past few years, and it's importance for organizations in Virginia and West Virginia has grown. With all the available options, deciding to virtualize can be a big and potentially confusing step. Here are a few things you should know about virtualization and virtualization software before you start to plan a deployment.
Virtualization has many meanings and the software is used for a number of purposes:
Server consolidation – running multiple logical servers on a single physical machine, is a popular way to save money on hardware costs and make administration and back up easier.
Desktop virtualization – for running client operating systems in a VM for training purposes or for support of legacy software or hardware.
Virtual testing environments – provides a cost-effective way to test new software, patches, etc., before rolling them out on your production network.
Presentation virtualization – by which you can run an application in one location and control it from another, with processing being done on a server and only graphics and end-user I/O handled at the client end.
Application virtualization – which separates the application configuration layer from the operating system so that applications can be run on client machines without being installed.
Storage virtualization – whereby a SAN solution is used to provide storage for virtual servers, rather than relying on the hard disks in the physical server.
A variety of virtualization solutions are available, and the one(s) you need depends on exactly what you need to do. You might want to run a virtual machine on top of your desktop operating system, running a different OS, either to try out a newly updated version of Microsoft’s OS or because you have some applications that won’t run in one of the operating systems. On the other hand, if you need to consolidate several servers and thus need maximum scalability and security, along with sophisticated management features, you should use a more robust VM solution, such as VMware’s vSphere®.
As far as licensing is concerned, most software vendors consider a VM to be no different from a physical computer. In other words, you’ll still need a software license for every instance of the operating system or application you install, whether on a separate physical machine or in a VM on the same machine. There may also be restrictions in the EULA of either the guest or host OS regarding virtualization.
Whether or not the application vendor will support running its software in a virtual machine is another issue that needs to be addressed up front. Because VMs use emulated generic hardware and don’t provide access to the real hardware, applications running in VMs may not be able to utilize the full power of the installed video card, for example, or may not be able to connect to some of the peripherals connected to the host OS.
There are many virtualization technologies and some of them run on operating systems other than Windows. You can also run non-Windows guest operating systems in a VM on a Windows host machine. Linux can also run on VMware.
Virtualization has a huge potential to improve security. Virtualized servers make it easier to isolate unstable or compromised applications, provide fast disaster recovery solutions, offer powerful forensic analysis capabilities and create cheaper intrusion detection tools.
Backing up virtual machine images and restoring them is much easier and faster than traditional disaster recovery methods that require reinstalling the operating system and applications and then restoring data. The VM can be restored to the same physical machine or to a different one in case of hardware failure. Less downtime means higher availability and greater worker productivity.
It may seem obvious, but the more virtual machines you want to run simultaneously, the more hardware resources you’ll need on that machine. Each running VM and its guest OS and applications will use RAM and processor cycles, so you’ll need large amounts of memory and one or more fast processors to be able to allocate the proper resources to each VM.
To run multiple resource-hungry servers on one machine, you’ll need a machine with hardware that’s capable of supporting multiple processors and large amounts of RAM and you must be running a host OS that can handle these. Consider deploying a 64-bit host operating system. 64-bit processors support a larger memory address space, and Windows 64-bit operating systems support much larger amounts of RAM (and in some cases, more processors) than their 32-bit counterparts.
Virtualization is a huge topic, and a big project to undertake. This article is only meant to provide an overview of your options. Luckily, Advanced Network Systems has many expert resources on staff that can help you understand virtualization concepts, help you choose the right products, and provide all the technical support you need to virtualize your datacenter or desktop environment. Get started: call 800.639.6757 or email us.
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