Virtualisation makes it much easier to grow infrastructure quickly to support new business opportunities. Many organizations are willing to make investments in such efforts due to their high rate of return and impact on top-line business results.
In addition, a number of typical IT challenges can be vastly improved using server virtualisation:
Underutilised and aging server hardware. Many organizations find themselves with fast-growing farms of under-utilized, aging x86 servers, each supporting only a single application. Available server resources are held captive while IT struggles to manage the server sprawl.
Data protection and recovery capabilities. In a physical server environment, it can be too expensive and complicated to duplicate production infrastructure at a remote location to protect applications. Often, even if building such a site is possible, complexity makes it difficult to keep the sites in sync and meet recovery objectives.
Inadequate disaster recovery plans and processes. Planning disaster recovery procedures for masses of servers is hard enough, but testing the plan is often a nightmare of tedious steps and documentation; in many cases, there is never enough time to perform testing because it disrupts production operations, so organisations forgo testing altogether and hope for the best.
Slow response to IT requests. How long does it take to deliver new IT resources for business users? New projects can take months to initiate due to lengthy approval and procurement cycles, application testing, and slow, cumbersome physical deployments. IT can only hope that the delay doesn’t cause the business to miss an opportunity.
Application performance and availability. Users demand higher and higher levels of application performance and data access. Keeping physical servers backed up, maintained, and up to date with firmware upgrades requires downtime and slows performance, frustrating users.
Constrained IT staff resources. Managing a lot of physical machines takes a lot of people since each machine requires individual attention.
Transformation with Server Virtualization
Still, the question remains: why implement server virtualisation? The list below is a good start, but is by no means exhaustive. Many end-users state that the longer they use the technology, the more ways they find to benefit from it.
IT responsiveness. Server virtualisation enables delivery of new IT resources faster as provisioning virtual machines takes only minutes, not weeks. In addition, server virtualisation can improve application performance and virtually eliminate downtime. At advanced levels, users can even self-provision as projects dictate.
Application availability. Backup windows, maintenance tasks, firmware upgrades, and the like interfere with operations because IT must often shut down machines. With the cost of downtime skyrocketing in today’s always-on world, the ability to keep production applications up and running is crucial for remaining competitive. Need to upgrade a host? Move the applications to another host—the applications keep running during the upgrade and business continues uninterrupted. In addition, the consolidated nature of server virtualisation makes it easier to identify and address the root causes of problems and performance bottlenecks.
Reduce or eliminate capital and operational costs. Moving from 100 physical servers to 25 by consolidating multiple virtual workloads can lead to equipment cost savings as well as reductions in energy expenditures to power and cool systems and in data centre floor-space. In some cases, additional equipment purchases can be avoided altogether; in others, older equipment could be redeployed, for example, at remote sites for disaster recovery. In addition, management effort is significantly streamlined with fewer devices.
Server sprawl. Many organisations have server rooms overflowing with machines. Floor space is expensive, as are the utilities and management required to run them. Server virtualisation allows businesses to reclaim and re-deploy stranded and underutilised resources, increasing their return on investment. Workload consolidation frees up data center space and delivers higher utilisation rates.
IT professionals reap rewards. The holistic, centralized administration possible with server virtualisation simplifies IT tasks. In particular, as management tools that are purpose-built for virtual environments emerge, administrators are able to manage tasks that cross infrastructure domains, providing an opportunity for IT professionals to increase their skills and responsibilities across servers, storage, and networks. These virtualisation success stories often result in career advancement.