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Virtualize Your IT Infrastructure. Virtualization enables today's X86 computers to run multiple operating systems and applications, making your infrastructure simpler and more efficient. Applications get deployed faster, performance and availability increase and operations become automated, resulting in IT that's easier to implement and less costly to own and manage.


In computing, refers to the act of creating a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, including but not limited to a virtual computer hardware platform, operating system (OS), storage device, or computer network resources.

Why should we use it

Virtualization is a method of running multiple independent virtual operating systems on a single physical computer. It is a way of maximizing physical resources to maximize the investment in hardware. Since Moore's law has accurately predicted the exponential growth of computing power and hardware requirements for the most part have not changed to accomplish the same computing tasks, it is now feasible to turn a very inexpensive 1U dual-socket dual-core commodity server into eight or even 16 virtual servers that run 16 virtual operating systems. Virtualization technology is a way of achieving higher server density. However, it does not actually increase total computing power; it decreases it slightly because of overhead. But since a modern $3,000 2-socket 4-core server is more powerful than a $30,000 8-socket 8-core server was four years ago, we can exploit this newly found hardware power by increasing the number of logical operating systems it hosts. This slashes the majority of hardware acquisition and maintenance costs that can result in significant savings for any company or organization.

When to use virtualization

Virtualization is the perfect solution for applications that are meant for small- to medium-scale usage. Virtualization should not be used for high-performance applications where one or more servers need to be clustered together to meet performance requirements of a single application because the added overhead and complexity would only reduce performance. We're essentially taking a 12 GHz server (four cores times three GHz) and chopping it up into 16 750 MHz servers. But if eight of those servers are in off-peak or idle mode, the remaining eight servers will have nearly 1.5 GHz available to them.

While some in the virtualization industry like to tout high CPU utilization numbers as an indication of optimum hardware usage, this advice should not be taken to the extreme where application responsiveness gets excessive. A simple rule of thumb is to never let a server exceed 50% CPU utilization during peak loads; and more importantly, never let the application response times exceed a reasonable SLA (Service Level Agreement). Most modern servers being used for in-house server duties are utilized from 1 to 5% CPU. Running eight operating systems on a single physical server would elevate the peak CPU utilization to around 50%, but it would average much lower since the peaks and valleys of the virtual operating systems will tend to cancel each other out more or less.

While CPU overhead in most of the virtualization solutions available today are minimal, I/O (Input/Output) overhead for storage and networking throughput is another story. For servers with extremely high storage or hardware I/O requirements, it would be wise to run them on bare metal even if their CPU requirements can be met inside a Virtual environment.

Physical to virtual server migration

Any respectable virtualization solution will offer some kind of P2V (Physical to Virtual) migration tool. The P2V tool will take an existing physical server and make a virtual hard drive image of that server with the necessary modifications to the driver stack so that the server will boot up and run as a virtual server. The benefit of this is that you don't need to rebuild your servers and manually reconfigure them as a virtual server—you simply suck them in with the entire server configuration intact!

So if you have a data center full of aging servers running on sub-GHz servers, these are the perfect candidates for P2V migration. You don't even need to worry about license acquisition costs because the licenses are already paid for. You could literally take a room with 128 sub-GHz legacy servers and put them into eight 1U dual-socket quad-core servers with dual-Gigabit Ethernet and two independent iSCSI storage arrays all connected via a Gigabit Ethernet switch. The annual hardware maintenance costs alone on the old server hardware would be enough to pay for all of the new hardware! Just imagine how clean your server room would look after such a migration. It would all fit inside of one rack and give you lots of room to grow.

As an added bonus of virtualization, you get a disaster recovery plan because the virtualized images can be used to instantly recover all your servers. Ask yourself what would happen now if your legacy server died. Do you even remember how to rebuild and reconfigure all of your servers from scratch? (I'm guessing you're cringing right about now.) With virtualization, you can recover that Active Directory and Exchange Server in less than an hour by rebuilding the virtual server from the P2V image.

Patch management for virtualized servers

VPatch management of virtualized servers isn't all that different with regular servers because each virtual operating system is its own independent virtual hard drive. You still need a patch management system that patches all of your servers, but there may be interesting developments in the future where you may be able to patch multiple operating systems at the same time if they share some common operating system or application binaries. Ideally, you would be able to assign a patch level to an individual or a group of similar servers. For now, you will need to patch virtual operating systems as you would any other system, but there will be some innovations in the virtualization sector that you won't be able to do with physical servers.

Licensing and support considerations

A big concern with virtualization is software licensing. The last thing anyone wants to do is pay for 16 copies of a license for 16 virtual sessions running on a single computer. Software licensing often dwarfs hardware costs, so it would be foolish to run a $20,000 software license on a machine on a shared piece of hardware. In this situation, it's best to run that license on the fastest physical server possible without any virtualization layer adding overhead.

For something like Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, you would need to pay for each virtual session running on a physical box. The exception to this rule is if you have the Enterprise Edition of Windows Server 2003, which allows you to run four virtual copies of Windows Server 2003 on a single machine with only one license. This Microsoft licensing policy applies to any type of virtualization technology that is hosting the Windows Server 2003 guest operating systems.

If you're running open source software, you don't have to worry about licensing because that's always free—what you do need to be concerned about is the support contracts. If you're considering virtualizing open source operating systems or open source software, make sure you calculate the support costs. If the support costs are substantial for each virtual instance of the software you're going to run, it's best to squeeze the most out of your software costs by putting it on its own dedicated server. It's important to remember that hardware is often dwarfed by software licensing and/or support costs. The trick is to find the right ratio of hardware to licensing/support costs. When calculating hardware costs, be sure to calculate the costs of hardware maintenance, power usage, cooling, and rack space.

There are licensing and support considerations for the virtualization technology itself. The good news is that all the major virtualization players have some kind of free solution to get you started. Even one year ago, free virtualization was not possible when VMware was pretty much the only player in town, but there are now free solutions from VMware,Microsoft, Xen Source, and Virtual Iron. In the next virtualization article, we'll go more in-depth about the various virtualization players.

Simplify your IT infrastructure with proven virtualization solutions built on VMware® vSphere with Operations Management™, the industry's leading virtualization and cloud management platform.

VMware virtualization helps you reduce capital expenses through server consolidation and reduce operating expenses through automation, while minimizing lost revenue by reducing both planned and unplanned downtime.

  • Reduce capital and operational costs by increasing energy efficiency and requiring less hardware with server consolidation.
  • Enhance business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities for your virtualized infrastructure through improved and simplified disaster recovery solutions with VMware® vCenter™ Site Recovery Manager™.
  • Virtualize Tier 1 business critical enterprise applications, including databases (Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP HANA, SAP Sybase), business applications (SAP Business Suite, Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, SAP), and deliver the highest SLAs and top performance.
  • Gain policy-based automation and ensure compliance and performance with a zero-touch infrastructure using VMware® vCenter™ Operations Management Suite™ for virtualization management
  • Learn why the software-defined data center is the best and most efficient cloud infrastructure solution

VMware virtualization solutions are built onVMware vSphere, our proven, robust and reliable virtualization platform—and the choice of more than 500,000 customers, including the entire Fortune Global 100. Our innovation and excellence have been recognized by strategic research firms like Gartner, who place us in the leaders' quadrant of the Gartner, Inc. Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure.

The architecture of today's x86 servers allows them to run only one operating system at a time. Server virtualization unlocks the traditional one-to-one architecture of x86 servers by abstracting the operating system and applications from the physical hardware, enabling a more cost-efficient, agile and simplified server environment. Using server virtualization, multiple operating systems can run on a single physical server as virtual machines, each with access to the underlying server's computing resources.

Server virtualization unleashes the potential of today's powerful x86 servers. Most servers operate less than 15 percent of capacity; not only is this highly inefficient, it also introduces server sprawl and complexity.

VMware vSphere offers a complete server virtualization platform that delivers:

  • 80 percent greater utilization of server resources
  • Up to 50 percent savings in capital and operating costs
  • 10:1 or better server consolidation ratio

Network virtualization is the complete reproduction of a physical network in software. Virtual networks offer the same features and guarantees of a physical network, yet they deliver the operational benefits and hardware independence of virtualization—rapid provisioning, nondisruptive deployment, automated maintenance and support for both legacy and new applications.

Network virtualization presents logical networking devices and services—logical ports, switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, VPNs and more—to connected workloads. Applications run on the virtual network exactly the same as if on a physical network.

You can create a highly scalable network fabric that provides greater levels operational efficiency and agility, faster provisioning, troubleshooting and cloning, with monitoring, QoS, and security all backed by VMware network virtualization software.

VMware NSX™ will be the world's leading network and security virtualization platform providing a full-service, programmatic and mobile virtual network for virtual machines, deployed on top of any general purpose IP network hardware.

The VMware NSX platform brings together the best of Nicira NVP and VMware vCloud® Networking and Security™ (vCNS) into one unified platform. VMware NSX exposes a complete suite of simplified logical networking elements and services including logical switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, VPN, QoS, monitoring and security.

Storage virtualization is part of the software-defined storage layer that must offer improvements in performance and space efficiency without requiring the purchase of additional storage hardware.

It must enable rapid provisioning so that high-performance, space-efficient storage can be spun up as fast as a VM can be spun up today. It must offer a VM-centric storage management model that is intuitive for virtual administrators who are taking on more of the storage management tasks in virtual environments. And it must integrate with the hypervisor platform to leverage familiar, native workflows.

VMware storage virtualization is a combination of capabilities that provide an abstraction layer for physical storage resources to be addressed, managed and optimized in a virtualization deployment.

Storage virtualization technology provides a fundamentally better way to manage storage resources for your virtual infrastructure, giving your organization the ability to:

  • Significantly improve storage resource utilization and flexibility
  • Simplify OS patching and driver requirements, regardless of storage topology
  • Increase application uptime and simplify day-to-day operations
  • Leverage and complement your existing storage infrastructure

Deploying desktops as a managed service gives you the opportunity to respond quicker to changing needs and opportunities. You can reduce costs and increase service by quickly and easily delivering virtualized desktops and applications to branch offices, outsourced and offshore employees and mobile workers on iPad and Android tablets.

VMware desktop solutions are scalable, consistent, fully secure and highly available to ensure maximum uptime and productivity.

  • Streamline deployment and management by delivering desktops as a service
  • Provide secure remote access to teleworkers and temporary workers without sacrificing performance

Organizations are increasingly virtualizing more of their Tier 1 mission-critical business applications and platforms, such as databases, ERP, CRM, email, collaboration, Java middleware, business intelligence and many others.

In order to maintain the required levels of QoS and SLA for these Tier 1 business applications in virtual environments, IT organizations must focus equally on the virtualization components of the project and on the robust management and monitoring of virtualized business applications, as well as on maintaining corporate guidelines for business continuity and disaster recovery.

These virtualized applications simply run better and provide high availability, disaster recovery, speed and agility as well as cloud-readiness. With the VMware Tier 1 Application Virtualization solution built on VMware vCloud® Suite™, you can enhance the quality of IT services delivered, while simplifying your infrastructure, maximizing efficiency and eliminating costly over-provisioning