It is a pretty good bet that the next server you buy will have some sort of virtualization enabled technology incorporated in to it. Most new processors include virtualization tweaks and now the hardware vendors like Dell are building servers to take advantage of this technology. It is up to you to turn it on and leverage it.
Waident has been involved in many server virtualization projects and implementations lately and plan on doing a lot more in the future. We have done simple single server upgrades to enterprise upgrades implementing complete server farm conversions and new SAN installations.
So what is virtualization and why do you care? Simply, this technology allows you to separate the physical server hardware from the operating system allowing you to run multiple separate “servers” on one physical piece of hardware. Now there is no need to buy servers each time you want to add a new application or test out a new program. You can have one physical server run 5, 10 or even more versions of Windows 2003 server, Windows XP, Vista, and even Linux to mention a few.
Use Case scenarios
- Time to upgrade servers. Hardware, like software, gets old and out of warranty. At some point it makes sense to upgrade the physical boxes before they implode on you. With virtualization, you can retire multiple servers in to one physical hardware and use a conversion program to take the old physical server and turn it in to a virtual server. This save you a ton of money on hardware and implementation since nothing needs to be rebuilt from scratch. We have done this several times for clients and it works very well.
- Just need to buy a new server. Need to buy a new server for a new program roll out? Why not make it a virtual server and give you the flexibility to add new virtual servers to the hardware at some point or use some of the built-in features like snapshots and cloning that allow you to take a live copy of the server as a backup or to boot up for another running system.
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. If you ever need to rebuild a traditional physical server running Windows and some programs, it can take a very long time since the operating system needs to be installed, then the programs, then copy back all of the data, then reconfigure everything like it was before. This process at its best can take many hours to days. If your machine was a virtual server, all you need to do is restore the backup and boot it back up and you are live and running again. This is much more affective and reliable.
The reality is that most server hardware today is substantially overpowered for what it is actually intended to be used for. The processor sits at idle and ready to work when needed most of the time, most likely you have more hard drive space than you need (life is even better with a SAN), and more RAM capacity then you will ever use. when buying a new server just invest a little more money in some additional RAM, setup your server as a virtual server, and install several servers in the virtual environment.
With Microsoft 2008 server having virtualization built-in and VMware ESX being in the enterprise for years, now more than ever, it makes sense to take advantage of this technology.
Of course the above is just the basic premise of virtualization and the full scope of implementation should also raise redundancy among other things. It is never a good idea to throw away multiple physical servers and replace them entirely with one physical machine putting all of your eggs in one basket so to speak. This is easy enough to manage for though depending on the needs of the situation.
So go get virtual! Once you take the plunge you will never go back.