Is Virtualization Right for You, and Does it Make Financial Sense?
This isnt to say that server virtualization is for everybody. Small outfits with only a couple of servers have no need to bother with virtualization. The benefits for them are likely to minor, far outweighed by the costs of buying new gear and hiring in the talent to implement it.
Tony Parkinson of Dell sees the make-or-break point at around the five-to-seven server threshold. That's where virtualization starts to make sense, especially if a company has low, per-application server utilization rates. Certainly any company in the 10 to 15 server range will experience the benefits, he said.
"There could be the need for physical security or other security features or even the need for applications to be attached to specific peripherals for them to function correctly, said Parkinson. For these situations, the customer might be better off just buying extra hardware."
How to Begin the Virtualization Process
If virtualization makes sense for your business, there are various steps you can take to ease the transition. Dell, for instance, offers small business tools such as vStart 50, which simplifies the deployment and management of virtual servers, as well as online support.
The company also offers DPACK, the Dell Performance Analysis Collection Kit. This provides a simulation of how an SMBs environment will look if consolidated by virtualization. This analysis is then used to determine the level of performance a company needs to maintain and the resources to accomplish that goal.
These tools let IT generalists easily operate and manage their physical and virtual environments, said Parkinson. Our experience shows that customers should start out small with one or two applications, and build from there.
Sean Smith at Simpleview concurs. He began with one Web server and expanded from there. His advice is simple. Read the documentation, he said. VMware has a huge library of knowledge -- use it, and research it.
Small Business Virtualization Roadmap
CDW, too, offers helps for SMBs embarking upon this journey. For most small businesses, the road to virtualized IT requires careful planning, said Jill Billhorn. Our virtualization solution architects believe that a thorough system assessment at the outset is the most important step.
Similar to the Dell approach, it identifies compatibility issues using what it calls the CDW Small Business Virtualization Roadmap. It is organized according to the five steps in server virtualization deployment: system assessment, staff assessment, management assessment, execution and measuring success. It also includes advice gathered from other small business owners.
There are resources available to provide low-cost or no-cost training for IT staff, and to address concerns with technical knowledge and support requirements, said Billhorn. Planned and executed well, virtualization can create great opportunities for small businesses.
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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