• The Realities of Server Virtualization

    As industry trends like Cloud Computing and Green IT continue to grab headlines, Virtualization remains one of the IT industry’s hottest topics because of the revolutionary impact it continues to have on IT applications and budgets, and fundamental role virtualization plays in other emerging IT trends.

    Server virtualization remains a hot topic because IT organizations are still learning to deal with server proliferation and the promise of consolidation in dynamic environments. While the principle of server consolidation is now accepted, how far have organizations progressed in this area? And based on adoption experiences, what are the practical considerations when dealing with server proliferation?

    Marketers responsible for delivering server virtualization solutions must have a solid understanding of this market. Summarized here is a white paper from Freeform Dynamics Ltd. that provides insights into these questions and more.

    Virtualization is a hot topic, but one full of apparent anomalies. Speak to any mainframe veteran, and they will be quick to point out that the principle has been around for 30 years or more and is extremely well proven. Speak to some vendors, and they will tell you that virtualization is now also well established in the distributed systems environment, especially in relation to x86 servers.

    While virtualization might now be far more generally available than in the past, the reaction among mainstream IT professionals has been mixed. The majority are very positive about what virtualization can potentially do for them in terms of rationalizing their x86 Windows and Linux server estates, for example, but even those with experience often say there is still a lot to be learned about putting together investment cases, designing and configuring virtualized environments, and implementing operational best practices.  Following are key conclusions offered by the Freeform Dynamics study and subsequent White Paper:

    1.       Organizations generally have more physical servers than applications

    Feedback from a recent study suggests that the IT infrastructure in larger organizations is often supporting several hundred, if not a thousand or more, applications, with even smaller businesses supporting software portfolios in the 10 to 50 application range. While this may be familiar, the wake-up call is that applications are generally outnumbered by the physical servers on which they run. As a result, 85% of respondents highlight existing or emerging issues with server proliferation.

    2.       Server proliferation is a function of cultural as well as technical factors

    Historically, new applications have been installed on their own dedicated hardware, regardless of whether the full capacity of a server is required – this avoids conflict with other applications, and enables each box to be tuned to run an application in an optimum manner. However, the dedicated server approach reinforces the administrative and political expectation of business stakeholders owning everything associated with the applications they fund, with the server and other equipment allocated to their own cost centre.

    3.       The consequences of server proliferation are real, but can be tackled

    Server sprawl has a direct, negative impact on routine activities such as patch management, application provisioning, and general monitoring and management of performance. This has a knock-on effect with regard to operational overheads and associated costs. Server proliferation also goes hand in hand with poor server utilization and power and space related challenges, which not only translate to elevated costs, but can also constrain development and growth. Those who have server proliferation under control demonstrably suffer significantly fewer problems in all of these areas.

    4.       Virtualization technologies are key to driving improvements

    Quantitative and anecdotal evidence suggests that there are clear and tangible benefits to be gained from the implementation of virtualization technology to consolidate and rationalize x86 server estates, and experience in the mainstream is being accumulated rapidly. With the solution landscape still developing, however, it is important to monitor the way in which offerings are evolving in terms of pricing, bundling and capability, e.g. something that looked current a year ago might not do so today.

    5.       Adoption experiences highlight the importance of forward planning

    When adopting any new technology, it is important to ensure that new problems are not being created for the future such as the proliferation of physical servers that can easily be replaced by virtual servers.  Understanding implementation and management best practices, and planning accordingly, will reduce the risks and enhance the returns from your virtualization activity.

    Conclusion

    The core benefits of server virtualization in terms of capital and operational cost savings  are clear, and other benefits to do with service level enhancement and operational risk management are also becoming better understood.  While virtualization is still a work in progress, it is important to monitor the way in which solutions are evolving from a pricing and bundling as well as a capability perspective. Taking the time to understand how best practice is developing, and planning accordingly, will also enhance the returns from your virtualization activity, both in the shorter and longer term.

    OneStopClick delivers white papers and technology-related research for IT professionals.  Click here to download the complete White Paper, “Server Virtualization in Context”

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