In The Virtues of Virtualization, Acronis CEO, Walter Scott, expounds on how IT professionals can meet ambitious company expectations with fewer funds, less staff and minimal hardware. His answer lies in virtualization, which we mentioned recently in our article on Parallels. But right now we're not talking about floating PC applications on Macs. We're talking about something way more serious: divorce. From a server-based infrastructure to a virtual one, that is.Virtual servers are preferable for the following reasons:
  • You can consolidate multiple servers, reducing IT costs and enabling a business (particularly a bootstrapped one) to expand more freely. This also removes the trouble of keeping track of servers, improving systems management with less manpower.
  • More efficient software deployment and rapid prototyping
  • Better leveraged hardware investments. Running multiple computers on one CPU, video card, motherboard, network card is a major financial incentive both for running services and for operating QA labs or similarly resource diverse IT facilities.
  • Work is suddenly mobile. It's a complex job to transfer processing services from physical to virtual machines, but it's far less trouble to shift that same load from one virtual platform to another, or even back into serverville if you find you have to.
  • Ease of recovery. If a software package crashes, a set of virtual servers can be recreated in minutes. That means no more OS re-installations, reconfigurations, and 24-hour tech help duty for everybody at the office should critical customer data be lost.
With all this going for it, Scott posits virtualization affords "the benefits of a server farm without the management headache." Too true. However, the world of IT is never so simple. Virtualized environments can put new power demands on datacenters, in addition it can be complex to understanding how to best manage new hardware requirements of a virtualized resource pool. This leads to the dark side of the coin. Realistically, there are some applications that will not work in a virtual environment and profiling the demand spikes of disparate applications can be complex and difficult to get right, introducing new risks and skillsets for management of such assets. When software doesn't perform well on a virtual machine, you'll need to be able to streamline a move back to the physical server world. This can happen both during initial virtualization prototyping and as applications grow or age. Not surprisingly, tools that move you from virtualization and back onto the ground aren't typically peddled by virtualization vendors. Plans and perceptions need to be conditioned to allow for potential moves from virtual back to physical. While Scott does not provide any aid in this arena he notes it is critical to have transitional tools, both for virtual-to-virtual and virtual-to-physical, on hand before saying good-bye to your server plough. This ensures you can manage issues that arise with minimal suffering, and still reap the benefits of virtualization for good fit applications. And the benefits may prove enormous. The key is building the internal skill sets and practices that help identify good fit application candidates and are able to smoothly make the physical-virtual-physical transitions. In the CMS world virtualization has a number of potential uses. During the initial prototyping and evaluation hardware can be in demand and very often hard to find. Bingo. Go virtual, deploy multiple solutions, set them up, tear them down and never bug the hardware guys. During production operations, virtualization can help relations with the IT department by simplifying the consolidation of development and staging environments. Buying new hardware never fails to please the geeks, make the managers grimace and the accountants squeal. Virtualization opens a third road in the resource battle and wise IT managers are embracing it quickly. Read The Virtues of Virtualization.