Virtualize Your Datacenter

Updated: April 30, 2009

If your business relies on data and the servers hosting that data, chances are you know a thing or two about server virtualization , especially if you are in charge of paying your company's power bill . Many Fortune 500 companies have already virtualized their datacenters to save a bundle on hardware and energy costs. Now the services that provided savings to warehouse-sized datacenters are available to companies of all sizes, including virtualization software for your home desktop. So if you are worried that the limited space in your office for your data servers might not be enough as your business grows, you're in luck — because if you haven't virtualized those servers yet, you won't need to buy any more servers than you already have.

What is virtualization?

Data virtualization separates the software from the underlying hardware through a layer of metadata. This allows a single computer to run multiple operating systems and applications as if it were many computers, delivering huge improvements in efficiency, flexibility and manageability.

The primary effects of data virtualization are to substantially lower IT costs, to provide more operating system flexibility, and to offer a more automated infrastructure capable of better responding to variable demands.

Who does it?

VMware Inc ., a Silicon Valley company founded in 1998, cornered the market on server virtualization before most people knew that it was going to be a problem. Today, VMware has more than 20,000 customers worldwide, including 100 percent of the Fortune 100.

What does it cost?

VMware offers a wide range of products, from free software for desktops to comprehensive business-class platforms for optimizing datacenters and corporate-size IT infrastructures.

How does it help?

VMware claims that its virtualization products can reduce your business's hardware and operating costs as much as 50 percent by increasing server efficiency from 15 percent to 80 percent, saving $3,000 annually for each server virtualized in the process. Research firm Forrester has said that unvirtualized servers use nearly 30 percent of their peak power consumption while idle. With your datacenter virtualized, you could reduce your hardware requirements by a factor of 10, gaining energy savings along the way. The reduction in energy consumption — by allowing more applications to run on fewer (and more efficient) servers, reducing power and cooling requirements — can save as much as $600 per year per server.

VMware also offers virtualized datacenter management software that allows your IT team to manage and automate your virtual machines for optimal performance, while avoiding downtime with live migration from one virtual machine to another.

Can we put it off until next year?

Server and data virtualization has reached a critical point for many businesses, especially those serving data in high-energy-cost areas. But even for companies that aren't cringing at the electric bill every month, server virtualization has become an IT necessity with no indication of trend reversal.

Gartner Inc. has reported that energy costs may increase from 10 percent of the IT budget today to more than 50 percent in the next few years. IDC has said that by next year, power costs required to run a company's servers will exceed the cost of the servers themselves. IDC has also determined that American businesses pay $14 billion per year for power and cooling, rising to $50 billion by 2010.

In short, if you haven't done it, don't wait. Save money, save energy — virtualize your data.

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