Virtualization has existed for several decades as a concept, but not much more. Today, however, new technologies have made virtualization easier and cheaper to implement , rendering it a viable option for businesses.
Virtualization aims to provide a logical rather than a physical view of data, computing power , storage capacity and other key resources. This approach intends to give businesses more control over their infrastructure by allowing IT managers and others to view and manage computing resources in ways that aren't restricted by implementation, physical packaging or location.
Virtualization can take many different forms. Server virtualization, for example, separates the application from the physical server and is the most widely deployed type of virtualization technology. Today, virtualization approaches are rapidly emerging for just about every infrastructure layer, including network , database, application, storage, security and mobility .
Most businesses adopt virtualization for its potential cost benefits , since the technology can provide a rapid ROI (return on investment) through lower management costs and enhanced asset utilization. Virtual machines can be used to consolidate the workloads of several under-utilized servers, resulting in fewer real-world machines. Associated financial benefits include savings on hardware, management, maintenance and environmental costs. IBM Corp. , a major virtualization-technology provider, promises that a consolidated virtual infrastructure can help adopters increase server-utilization rates from between 5 to 15 percent to over 70 percent.
While the promise of saving money has attracted many, most virtualization adopters also quickly discover that the approach offers an array of additional benefits. The most noteworthy are:
- Expanded flexibility: Virtualization allows centrally managed resource pooling through an enterprise hub to better support rapidly evolving business requirements. Virtual machines can also be used to run different versions of OSes (operating systems). Such systems may be hard even or impossible to run on newer real-world hardware. Virtual machines can additionally create the illusion of hardware, or a hardware configuration that an infrastructure doesn't have, such as multiple processors.
- Better access: Virtualization's solid foundation and shared infrastructure provides enhanced access to infrastructure and information in the support of business applications and an SOA (services oriented architecture).
- Rapid application deployment: Virtualization can move businesses toward rapid infrastructure provisioning that requires minutes rather than days. The technology can also make tasks such as system migration, backup and recovery more manageable.
- Business resiliency: For easier replication and restoration, virtualization enables adopters to secure and isolate application workloads and data on virtual servers and storage devices. Virtual machines, by isolating what they run, can also provide fault and error containment.
- Improved security: Virtual machines can be used to offer secure, isolated testbeds for evaluating untrusted applications.
Although virtualization promises easier management and lower costs, it's not a miracle solution for curing a business's infrastructure woes. Companies considering virtualization need to carefully weigh the technology's drawbacks along with its advantages:
- Runaway management: While virtualization can certainly reduce costs, virtual servers require most of the same administration costs as their real-world counterparts. This means companies that carelessly create virtual servers could find management costs skyrocketing rather than falling.
- Security compatibility: Although virtualization provides inherent security benefits, the disadvantage is that many everyday security technologies remain incompatible with virtual infrastructures. A non-compliant firewall, for example, may continue to assume that a particular IP address represents a static association to a specific piece of equipment.
- Evolving standards: Firm, open standards that would allow all layers to communicate and function in unison aren't yet ready. Even further down the road are technologies that would provide seamless interoperability between vendors. The DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) is currently sponsoring the OVF (Open Virtual Machine Format), a standard that will tie together several propitiatory specifications.
Although virtualization has existed for many years, it's still a new and radical concept for businesses that have only recently discovered the technology. Most companies considering virtualization carefully evaluate their current infrastructures and then, usually with external help, determine how the technology can best be applied to their systems.
Enterprise Strategy Group's Lab Validation Report on TSM for Virtual Environments. See why TSM is one of the preeminent backup solutions for VMware and other virtual servers. more
IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center can help reduce storage costs by enabling integrated management of storage assets, performance and operations from a single, web-based console. It also integrates with IBM Cognos Business Intelligence for reporting and analytics. more
This EMA paper gives insights on why storage matters for cloud and what's the advantages of storage virtualization for cloud. It reviews IBM’s software defined storage infrastructure solution and highlights the competitive differentiator for IBM's SmartCloud offering. more
The next generation of simplified backup administration dramatically improves scalability and efficiency. Experience how IBM’s advanced interface for Tivoli Storage Manager enables consolidation, intuitive problem resolution and integrated team collaboration. more
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) provides a turnkey solution to a range of data protection issues. This complimentary ESG Lab Validation focuses on key improvements in the TSM platform that drive greater scalability, efficiency, and availability in storage management. more