The concept of virtualization has been around in datacenters for over a decade. Basically, virtualization is an approach to provision and share resources in datacenters and simplifies management. Virtualization is implemented because it enables judicious use of assets. As resources are consolidated they help to readily meet business demands. Virtualization allows IT organizations to better respond to business needs. For instance, in the case of servers or networks, virtualization uses one single asset to make it operate as if it were multiple assets. For example, let us assume there is a need for ten servers, virtualization can reduce the number of servers to two which is a benefit of resource optimization and cost saving.
Virtualization enhances the utilization and efficiency of assets thus reducing the number of physical assets. It is not a product, but a process used in IT organizations for managing servers, storage and networks. In the case of storage or networks virtualization is an abstracted view of underlying physical devices. In storage, multiple physical disks are combined and presented to servers and applications to show as one single large asset. This significantly simplifies the server and application architecture. In the case of desktops, virtualization is used for centralized management of data and applications and reduces cost of technical personnel. Further centralization of data and resources avoids data risk.
From the technical view point, virtualization combines software and hardware engineered to create Virtual Machines (VM). VM is an abstraction of computer hardware that allows single machine to act as multiple machines. VM is required because a single OS can own all hardware resources. Contrary to this, VMs will enable multiple OS, each running on its own VM. Hence, the hardware resource is shared between many VMs each running its own OS. Virtualization offers cost savings for organizations that look for innovative methods to cut costs in IT without affecting business outcomes. From the technical perspective virtualization offers benefits in areas of consolidating server, storage and networks in the form of enhanced server efficiencies, improved disaster recovery efforts, increased business continuity and so on.
Virtualization is a hot trend in datacenters due to its ability to consolidate resources and mange disparate applications and systems (OS, databases, and storage). Maximum benefits of virtualization can be derived by enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM and sales force automation (SFA) and so on. Datacenters are built to accelerate service delivery, enhance profits and reduce risk for new business developments. From a functional view point, separating data and workloads from the physical infrastructure is done in order to derive efficiency in many angles. This separation will derive efficiencies in application and infrastructure modernization, datacenter design, platform updates, new and existing delivery models, cloud computing and so on. In fact, all these benefits are obtained from virtualization of servers, desktops and by virtualized appliances or VMs. Let us have a look into some business benefits and opportunities.
Companies look towards achieving business goals for long term in reduced cost and without compromising on business output. Virtualization provides the opportunity to save substantially by achieving more with computing resources already available. Given below are some areas where virtualization technology offers benefits for both large and small enterprises.
- Server consolidation and application availability: Server consolidation offers cost savings in terms of reduced number of server hardware and infrastructure resources. Further separating OS and applications from server will protect each VM from viruses and threats. A virus attack in one VM will not affect other VMs. Consolidating servers will help Administrators to build replication sites for back up and to have a disaster recovery plan without incurring costs. Increased application availability will ensure business continuity for organizations because any planned downtime or outages will not severely affect their VM, therefore service disruptions are avoided.
- Repurpose old or redundant hardware: Cost savings result in the form of retiring servers. From server consolidation, the excess hardware that are underutilized can be reallocated for use in other application areas that did not materialize earlier due to budget limitations. Redundant hardware can also be used to enhance existing capacity for hosting data intensive applications.
- Audit software licenses: IT departments keep current inventory of all software assets. Audits help to identify software that is no longer used. Companies may be paying licensing fees for applications they no longer need. Eliminating redundancy within software can help the company to consolidate software applications and reduce cost in support and maintenance.
- Automating labour intensive processes: The objective of IT is to automate processes whenever and wherever possible. For example, automating customer service solutions can substantially reduce help desk calls. Many mundane tasks like periodic product sales reports, inventory reports, payroll processing, etc can be automated to reduce human error. In this way companies can also reduce their IT personnel which is another cost saving opportunity.
- Outsourcing: Outsourcing is another cost savings option for many companies. IT solution providers can design, develop, implement and maintain technology solutions for companies at a less price than to develop and manage the application in house. Through virtualization IT solution providers host the application on their premises or support and maintain solutions at the company’s location. The company can save considerable cost in hardware and maintenance.
- Align IT with Business Processes: When the IT department have better understanding of business goals, they can plan the amount of resources required in advance to coincide with organizational goals. In this way IT is in a better position to predict future demands on IT resources. IT department can plan for number of VMs required to run business processes and opt for a cloud model to grow with business.
- Centralized IT Management: Virtualization centralizes everything, from OS to data to applications and storage. Centralized IT management offers substantial cost savings by simplifying and automating labour and resource intensive IT operations across disparate hardware. Centralization also helps to secure data and applications, easily apply patches and updates thus reducing human error.
There are more benefits in addition to the above. Virtualization helps companies to achieve operational efficiency at low cost as compared to maintaining an on premise infrastructure. It helps companies to optimize their IT resources both from the technical and operational perceptive without incurring more hardware cost. Virtualization offerings and options are available from many vendors and datacenter service providers to suit business operational needs. IT Managers must consider all technology options and streamline IT processes by thoroughly evaluating cost cutting possibilities without compromising on business growth and future potential.