What Virtualization Means for Small Business - Page 2

By Drew Robb
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Blossoming Trend
There is no doubt that virtualization is catching on like wildfire. Just about every large and mid-sized firm is already doing it extensively, and now it is percolating down into the small business strata.

“Virtualization is exploding in popularity,” said Jim Smith, a performance specialist at TeamQuest Corp. “Virtual machine deployments are expected to grow from 540,000 in 2006 to more than four million 2009.”

He cautions, though that while the benefits are widely advertised, the complexities have not been comprehensively discussed. VMs add a whole new layer of administration to IT. If you're already well schooled in IT complexity, fine. But for companies still coming to terms with internal networking or hooking up servers to storage arrays, virtualization is going to mean the addition of a highly paid specialist into the fold. So it’s by no means a must-have technology for many smaller organizations.

Smith makes the point that a good reason to use virtualization is to improve the utilization rate of hardware – i.e., how much processing power your server uses to run the application. Many companies, for example, buy a server for every application they run. But you can end up with dozens of servers on the floor, most of which are very poorly utilized.

What this adds up to is that you have a hefty power and cooling bill but aren’t getting much return on the money. Low utilization means computers aren’t been used to their limits and that represents an awful lot of inefficiency.

“When people look, they are often shocked to find that many servers are running at utilization levels of less than12 percent,” said Smith.  “Since 9/11, however, the tide has been turning and the ongoing trend is to maximize utilization rates. And server virtualization certainly plays a big part in solving this problem.”

This brings many other advantages to the IT world. Server deployment can now be done far more rapidly. Instead of hours or days, it can be done with a virtual machine within the hour. Other benefits include a reduction in the amount of space required for your computers. That in turn leads to lower costs for ventilation, electrical and cooling.

Different vendors, of course, advocate their own virtualization schemes, and the various approaches can be quite confusing. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss only the options that small businesses would likely encounter.

VMware is the darling of the marketplace. Just about every company of any size engages some form of VMware deployment. VMware ESX Server is software-based virtualization that facilitates hardware sharing. It makes it possible to have a powerful processor shared by multiple virtual machines and to behave as though they were completely separate servers.

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This article was originally published on January 31, 2008
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