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Virtualize This!

Posted by: Next Digital  |  Aug 24, 2015

As computer hardware continues to improve, Servers (specialized, high-end computers that are the backbone of today’s IT infrastructure) have become so powerful that they often have far more resources than are needed for any one role they may be assigned. 
A technology called Virtualization has matured to the point that it is now commonplace in most of today’s IT environments.  By allotting a portion of the server’s resources (memory, processing power, storage, etc.), virtualization allows us to create a non-physical computer that is hosted on that powerful server. 

Confusing? How about an example:

When you double-click on an icon on your computer, you start an application which uses system resources on your computer to perform a function.
In the same way, a virtual computer is an application which uses system resources on the host server, to perform a function in every way as a separate computer.
The amount of these virtual machines (VMs) that can function on any given server, is limited by the resources of that server.  The more powerful the server, the more VMs that can be hosted there.  You might have 100 VMs, all performing different functions and running independently of each other on one very powerful host server. This allows IT departments to be able to update a single application / part of the infrastructure while keeping the rest of the environment running.

"My eyes are starting to glaze over with all this tech talk.  Why does this matter to me?”

If you ever saw the movie TRON, you may remember that the computer used a laser to digitize the hero, essentially turning him into a computer program within the system. Today, we can essentially do the same thing, but only to computers…for now!
For example, I could digitize the computer you are sitting at right now, place a copy on a server in the Next Digital Cloud and allow you to access YOUR computer from any internet connected computer in the world.  We could even move that virtual computer to a different host on the other side of the planet within seconds…which is faster than any courier could ship the physical version!

In my last blog, we discussed the idea that your company’s current server infrastructure could be moved into the Next Digital Cloud.  Typically, this is done using virtualization.  At a high level, we simply digitize the current server infrastructure and add it to the Next Digital host servers in our Cloud infrastructure. With a few simple network changes, we connect your office computers to the Next Digital Cloud allowing you to continue accessing data and services as you always have, as if your servers were still humming away in your server room.

“Interesting, but how does this benefit my company?”

Besides the significant savings in hardware costs, upgrading, maintenance, manpower and electricity, here are a few other notable benefits:

Faster Server Provisioning - No longer do you have to order and wait for your server.  A new virtual server can be ‘spun’ up in minutes to your exact specifications.

Faster Upgrades – No more waiting for parts. With virtualization, it is simple to specify to the host, how much memory or storage or processing should be allocated to any of the tenant virtual machines, providing that the host has the available resources to allocate to the virtual machine.

Test Environments - In times past, it could be far too expensive to have a duplicate physical environment that is the same as the production environment.  With virtualization, test environments not only become much less expensive, they also become much easier to produce.  By creating copies of all the virtual servers in the environment and placing them in a separate virtual network, we can easily spin up an identical test environment.

Better Use of Resources – Regarding servers, the typical mode of operation for the last 15 years or so has been to reduce the amount of roles that any one server performs.  For example, one server might be the email server and another, the print server rather than putting both roles on the same server.  The downside to this is that many servers are not effectively using their installed resources.  With virtualization, we have the ability to tune the resources exactly to the needs of the server role.

Increased Uptime – Most enterprise server virtualization platforms have the ability to automate a “failover” to a different host, meaning that if one host is having problems, the Virtual Machines can automatically be moved over to another host even while the virtual server is in use!

As you can see, virtualization is a revolutionary technology that has the potential to not only save your company money, but also to streamline IT operations through additional functionality and more effective use of existing resources.

 

If you are interested in learning more about virtualizing your company’s computer environment, please contact Next Digital.

 

-Article by Stuart, Account Manager at Next Digital