Server virtualization is inevitable and coming to a server room near you. Along with that comes a SAN to make it all work more effectively.
So what is server virtualization?
A virtual server creates the ability for a logical server to be separated from the physical hardware. This allows you to run multiple Microsoft Windows servers on a single piece of hardware. There is no longer a need to have a physical server for each Windows server you need. Virtual machines can be Windows 2003, 2008, XP, Vista, Linux, among others so you are not limited to just Windows server operating systems.
What is a SAN?
SAN stands for Storage Area Network. Basically an overly technical name for a lot of hard drives in a single device that multiple servers can connect to and use, just like they would a local hard drive in the machine. You can leverage a global storage pool for all of your servers rather than invest in local server hard drive space that is often underutilized and difficult to upgrade.
Why do you care?
Not too long ago, when you needed a new server you had to go out and buy the software (Windows most likely), the hardware (Dell, HP, IBM, etc.), and the program you wanted to run (SQL, CRM, Exchange, etc.). New server hardware has more raw horsepower than you usually need and most of the time it just sits there waiting to be utilized.
Nearly all hardware vendors have virtual server offerings. The processor manufacturers have integrated virtual optimization in their offerings making it very easy to run a virtual environment on nearly any physical server.
How we can help
We can provide strategic guidance for the project to ensure there is a business objective driving the process with a tangible ROI. We will evaluate the necessary equipment which best fits the projects needs. We will then place all of the needed orders, set up, and roll out out the new infrastructure, which will include migrating any current server to the new virtual server infrastructure. We take care of and worry about everything so you can focus on your business.
We are not tied to any specific hardware or software vendor for these technologies allowing us to provide true impartial advocacy. Throughout our years of experience we have only partnered with the best of the breed vendors. Since we are a services firm, we do not need to sell hardware/software for high margins enabling us to pass the savings on to our clients.
The good and the bad
As with all technology nothing is perfect. Here is a quick breakdown of the positives and negatives for a virtual infrastructure environment.
Can greatly reduce costs for hardware, power, and cooling
Poises you for a very fast, reliable, and robust Disaster Recovery environment
Depending on your server upgrade needs, it could be much more cost effective leveraging virtualization over physical one to one hardware
Much faster and very flexible when rebuilding a server
Many options for reliable warm standby or servers for redundancy
Elegantly easy to protect yourself from system software upgrades
The ability to build a new server in minutes
No need for dedicated technology staff to manage the environment
Still need to purchase operating system licenses – just because it is virtual does not mean you can share the licensing.
You will be adding additional complexity to your network
Costs can be high with a small network
If it is configured incorrectly, you could severely impact performance and redundancy
Things to consider
Incorporate new equipment in to production and reuse old equipment for disaster recovery purposes
Review your risk profile to determine if you need warm, hot, or cold server recovery to help mitigate costs
There are a host of options available for building a virtual server infrastructure. Be sure and carefully review the offerings to challenge them against your needs. If you do it right, your users will thank you for the speed, stability, and reliability of the network.