In essence, as its name suggests, virtualisation is simply the act of making something that is physical, virtual. In IT outsourcing and management, virtualisation often sees resources such as hardware platforms, operating systems, storage devices and network resources created virtually, rather than installing them ‘actually’
While virtualisation has relevance across networking, software and applications, it can also be applied to the more technical side of IT management with servers and mainframes using the concept to consolidate, improve efficiency and reduce costs. In fact, the term virtualisation for IT management was coined by IBM mainframe users who adopted the technology as a means of pooling resources back in the 1960s and 70s.
Making something actual, virtual may have started as a way to reduce hardware assets but virtualisation is increasingly a part of IT disaster recovery planning and data security – it allows businesses to recover much more quickly from systems failures, natural disaster and even acts of God than would otherwise be the case.
For businesses, it is easy to reap the costs of virtualisation:
• Systems can be restored quickly in the event of a failure, reducing business down time. So versatile is virtualisation as a technology that it plays a key role in business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. Put simply, you can use it to encapsulate an operating system, an application and its data into the equivalent of an application running on top of an operating system. The operating system in this case is the virtualisation software which can then easily transmit the encapsulated application to an offsite location, as if it were a data file. This means that it can be on a remote machine for employees to access, potentially slashing downtime from days to hours.
• Servers can be consolidated, meaning fewer are needed, leading to reduced operating costs. Let's suppose that you have a perfectly good server that you have been using for many years, but you would like to introduce a new product such as a document management system, CRM package or email archiving product. You may be told that the product isn't compatible with the server or that the company that provides the product won't support it if it is placed on the same server as another vendor's product. With virtualisation, provided that your existing virtualised server has sufficient resources, you have the option of simply sandboxing off an area and directly installing the new system. This avoids the extra cost of purchasing additional servers, which can be prohibitive in the long run. Thus, in a virtualised environment, 10 programs that can’t run together and would have required 10 servers can now run happily on one server.
• Many virtual machines can run simultaneously, using a single set of hardware to significantly reduce capital costs. Virtualisation means that you don't have to keep adding servers and paying the costs for their overheads. One of the biggest concerns related to IT management is ensuring that hardware costs don't spiral out of control. This can happen so easily, not least as hardware will need to be replaced every few years when it ceases to be fit for purpose. Virtualisation helps to reduce the cost of such refreshes. With virtualisation, you can use the same products and services and upgrade accordingly, but on one server rather than ten, which also significantly reduces your power overheads. Put simply virtualisation can be used to make one individual server do the same function as multiple servers.
• Space Saving - Nor will you generally need as much space for your IT equipment as dedicated rooms for servers with cooling and sound proofing capabilities are not necessary.
• Energy Efficiency Energy consumption is a critical issue for businesses today, whether the goal is to save money, reduce impact on the environment or keep your datacentre running. In the United States alone, datacentres consumed $4.5 billion worth of electricity in 2006. Industry analyst have estimated that over the next 5 years, most enterprise data centres will spend as much on energy (power and cooling) as they do on hardware infrastructure. Virtualisation is one of the ways that companies are reducing energy costs and consumption by as much as 80%, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.
Further blog reading What Is Virtualisation?
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