Sunday, February 25, 2007

Are You Mastering Virtualization?

When we decided to take on virtualization 3 years ago, it was purely driven by my need to reduce physical servers. But our investment in virtualization has delivered much more than saving on physical hardware.

Virtualization is the most disruptive technology to reach the data center and soon the desktop and the mobile device. Unfortunately, most companies are still looking at it from far away as a new toy. Let me tell you that it is far from a toy it is the real deal. Virtualization is secure, reliable and scalable. In fact, the numbers speak for themselves. Imagine trying to recover a completely crashed server and its content. How long until you are back with an identical configuration up and running? One day? 10 hours? Try virtualization and you can do it in say 10 minutes. Maybe 5 minutes if you are incredibly efficient. Or imagine trying to add capacity to your newly introduced application or service which is more popular than anyone could predict. How long would it take to add and configure 10 new servers to scale to another million users? A couple of days? 24 hours? Try virtualization and you can do it in 2 hours or less.

And while those benefits are compelling enough to invest in virtualization, try these by-products of your investment. Do you have fully identical test and development environments to your current production environments? No, now you can easily and fast. Or how about your disaster recovery plan and capabilities? Where are those tapes stored again? Who has the key? With virtualization you can re-build your entire infrastructure in one day or less.

Not enough benefits for you. Try security. A cool trick to try is to move your virtualized servers from their physical environments to other physical environments every so often. Imagine trying to hack into that.

So how does this virtualization work you might ask? Well there are three types. Full Virtulaization, Para Virtualization and Pure OS Virtualization. We like Full Virtualization the best because it offers the most flexibility for managing any OS and any application combination on the same base hardware at the same time. With dual-core, quad-core or more CPUs, the expected delays in response are hardly noticeable. So check out the new AMD quad-core line, the new Intel dual-core line, and the IBM multi-core Power line. Another way is to use virtualization with what is called Para Virtualization, which works only on Linux / Unix OSes today as it requires kernel modifications to optimize for the physical layer. This approach is popular with the rocket scientists in our world. Don't try it at home without serious professional help. And the last flavor is Pure OS Virtualization, which is the partitioning of one single OS flavor to run separate virtual servers. This approach gains you flexibility in sharing the physical layer with more applications while maintaining more raw access to the physical environment. Albeit, it is for one OS and multiple applications only.

All flavors of server virtualization have their relevant applications to solve business problems. In the end, I strongly recommend that if you are still on the fence or investing lightly that you truly dive into this one or at least buy some stock to benefit from one of the largest and better disruptions to change our industry in a long, long time. Virtualize everything!

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