What Virtualization Means for Small Business - Page 3

By Drew Robb
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Microsoft Windows Virtual Server
Windows Virtual Server (WVS) is also software-based, and like VMware, it lets you share hardware resources such as memory and CPUs.

Let’s move this over into one possible scenario. HP offers a product for small businesses named the HP c3000 (also known by its nickname, Shorty). This is, in essence, just a chassis or enclosure to hold blade servers (thin, streamlined servers).

You can buy a c3000 enclosure for with power supplies, fans and management software for less than $5,000. It can hold two-to-eight server blades, which range between $2,100 and $5,000 each, depending on processor, memory and configuration. There are some additional costs for storage and networking. Depending on the mix of devices, a Shorty enclosure may cost between $7,000 and $45,000.

This hardware from HP supports VMware, WVS and other virtualization solutions. By consolidating all of IT into a couple of these boxes, it is possible to establish a powerful virtual world composed of scores of virtual servers. Now set up another such box at a remote location and disaster recovery and you simplify backup tremendously. 

“We have customers using the c3000 for virtualization projects,” said Barry Sinclair, product manager for HP c3000. “One small business customer has four enclosures (two in each of two sites in a virtualized environment, and it is handling disaster recovery scenarios between sites.”

Virtualization in the Real World
Let’s end by looking at how one small business benefits from virtualization. The Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is non-profit with a goal to make voluntary, high-quality preschool available to every four year old in Los Angeles County. It has several physical servers running VMware. Each physical server represents 15 to 20 virtual machines. 

“The cost of purchasing physical servers would have easily run over $100,000,” said Robert Lazo, director of systems and operations at LAUP. “VMware technology allowed us to avoid that expense.”

Other benefits reported by Lazo include being able to set up a new server in less than five minutes. Such a task would have taken many hours previously.

LAUP, however, has a well-established IT staff of seven people to service 150 employees. And that’s probably the make-break point of virtualization – it’s great if you have clued-in people who are coping with IT headaches on a daily basis. But if your business is coping fine without high-level computing expertise, it’s probably safe to give virtualization a miss.

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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This article was originally published on January 31, 2008
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