For more than a decade, companies have begun to embrace virtualization technologies at various levels. Some companies have just begun to embrace it – perhaps in small scale for their test systems, while others have adopted it on such large scale that their entire datacenter is virtualized. Regardless of their level of adoption however, one every common theme prevailed. They began embracing it as a consolidation play to reduce the amount of physical hardware they had to buy and support, usually focused heavily on the purchase and support costs of that acquisition. While that is certainly a fantastic reason to virtualize your platforms, I would contend that there are several other benefits to virtualization whose benefits can far outweigh those cost savings.
Supportability and High Uptime Many of the virtualization products offer various methods by which workloads can be moved from one host to another, or even one datacenter to another, without the guest server going down or even missing a beat. These technologies can be automated so that your workloads will automatically move off of a host if it is getting too busy or is about to fail, thus avoiding downtime to your workloads. Your support staff can also use this technology to evacuate your production workloads off of a host in real time so that they can take the host down for maintenance at any time with absolutely no impact to your business. This will make your support staff far more efficient (and a lot happier too!)
Disaster Recovery By using disk or virtual machine replication technologies along with any of the automated failover and recovery products on the market, you can quickly become the hero of your business in the event of a disaster. For some of our clients, we have successfully failed over environments containing several hundred servers from our production datacenter to our disaster recovery datacenter across the country. Since this is a disaster scenario, their workloads were of course down, however they were fully recovered and back in production at the recovery site in under two hours. If your company is striving to get closer to an “always on” type of environment, these solutions can be invaluable.
Backup and recovery One of the never ending challenges with continued growth of the datacenter is the ability to back up all of those systems in a timely fashion. Yes, backup devices continue to evolve and get faster with time, but they never seem to grow at the same pace as the datacenter capacity. With the introduction of virtual machine snapshot technologies, many of the platforms now permit your backup product to take a snapshot of each virtual machine and then back that static snapshot up. This allows you to run your backups around the clock instead of only at night as in the past, with minimal to no impact to your servers. Since the virtual machines are backed up as an image, it also allows you to restore those machines without having to rebuild the guest OS first like you used to have to. These technologies make the process of backup and restore much more efficient, allowing your environment to scale at a pace your backup environment can keep up with.
Workload portability The days of brick and mortar data centers full of physical servers that never move is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The fast pace of business is demanding that a company’s computing platforms be able to grow and move with the business needs. Most of the current virtualization platforms incorporate technologies that will easily allow you to move your virtual machines across your datacenter, perhaps to a host with more resources, with absolutely no downtime to your client at all. Many are also now offering that same ability to move the machine while online to another host across the country or even to a cloud resource provider, again with little to no downtime. This ability to move workloads around to different resource providers gives you great flexibility to put the right work in the right place at the right time. The days of having to deal with constrained resources are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
In conclusion, these factors just begin to brush the surface of the benefits that virtualizing your datacenter can bring to reality. The savings and benefits to your business go on and on. Take a moment to consider all of the other advantages you can realize out of your virtualized datacenter. With some minor investments, you can take your business to a whole new level.