5 Benefits of Server Virtualisation
Servers have come a long way since the early days. The are now concentrated in server farms, processing Big Data and causing managers headaches with their management, including their power consumption needs. The advance of technology has, in general, meant that the physical size of servers has reduced but at the cost of increased concerns around power usage and heat generation. Data Centre designs often include recommendations as to the positioning of servers and server racks to minimise the effects of heat, and on the power, distribution methods to be adopted.
Current concerns are normally expressed as environmental concerns around power usage and green issues. These factors have concentrated the mind wonderfully on how best to organise and deploy them. Fortunately, software advances have kept pace with hardware developments, allowing the potential use of servers in a manner that minimises these concerns. That is where server virtualisation comes in.
Firstly, what is server virtualisation?
Simply put, virtualisation is running several logical servers on the same physical hardware. Each server looks like it is totally independent, running in its own hardware environment, managed separately and operating in its own environment. They can be the same operating system or can be a variety of different operating systems.
Management tools allow each virtual server to be managed from a single management console, as do most proprietary virtualisation systems.
Here are five ways in which the adoption of server virtualisation can benefit.
One matter that is often overlooked is that In general terms servers can be sitting idle or underused for a good part of the time. That is where server virtualisation can be of benefit to maximise their utilisation. However, that is not the only benefit of server virtualisation.
Data servers, in particular, do not use their full processing power, and applications servers do not use their full data transfer capacity. Before going out and buying additional server capacity, it will be of benefit to see if a virtualised environment will be of benefit.
Installing an appropriate mix of data and applications servers on the same physical hardware can go a long way to maximising hardware utilisation.
One concern in a shared hosted environment operated by a shared service provider, perhaps a virtual PBX or applications environment is that of security. A client organisation will need to be reassured that their data is secure and cannot be accessed by other users of the shared facility. A second issue is that of managing the processing and storage requirements of each client individually
If the shared facility operates in a virtual server environment, with different virtual servers allocated to different users, then individual security profiles can be set up to minimise the possibility of one user being able to reach the data of another. That also provides the opportunity to allocate resources as each client requires.
That environment will in addition help the shared service provider to allocate resources and recover costs for each user.
As noted above, environmental concerns are becoming increasingly important in the management of computing infrastructures, particularly that of data centres. The increasing power of modular servers concentrates large numbers of physical servers in equipment racks. This increases design concerns around temperature management and power supply to the racks.
Data centre specifications now have clear guidelines on the layout of racks to minimise heat concerns. For example, racks with high heat output should alternate with low heat generation racks. The specifications even stipulate the direction in which the racks must face.
Using server virtualisation can reduce the overall number of servers and hence racks needed, thereby lessening concerns over temperature management.
Server management is always a concern for IT managers, particularly in a shared services environment where each client has different requirements. By adopting a server virtualisation approach, each server can be managed independently allowing the particular needs of each client to be managed to their requirements, even if they are operating the same applications software.
For example, backups can be scheduled to accommodate the needs of each client, rather than all clients potentially losing service at the same time, a time which may not suit all clients. Another valuable benefit is that different clients may need different versions of the same applications software, and will need to carry out software maintenance from time to time, perhaps to apply software fixes.
In a server virtualisation environment, each client can have these maintenance activities carried out independently without affecting the service offered to other clients.
Server virtualisation also reduces the number of physical servers, meaning that less physical intervention is needed to manage installation.
A basic rule of thumb is that the more servers the greater the cost. Each server requires capital expenditure to purchase, will attract maintenance charges, and will need a separate copy of licensed software.
In a virtualisation environment, with fewer servers, the purchase and maintenance costs are obviously reduced. Depending on the software supplier, there may also be cost advantages in the installation of licensed software, but that is by no means certain. Software suppliers were quick to see the threat to their income from the reduced number of licences needed in a virtual environment.
Again, in a shared services environment, an environment incorporating virtual servers allows for easier collection of client billing information. It also provides the opportunity to easily apply differential billing regimes for different clients.
Overall, the benefits of server virtualisation are clear.