Virtualization is no longer the new kid on the IT block; it’s a settled concept that’s here to stay. Gartner projected the worldwide x86 virtualization market to rise 5.7%, to $5.6 billion, in 2016.
However, despite the obvious popularity of virtualization, some segments of the IT world are beginning to show signs of a backlash. As new IT paradigms take hold, some IT departments are beginning to re-introduce more physical servers into their environments, or to switch to new paradigms such as Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI) or Hyper-converged Integrated Systems (HCIS).
Even with the backlash and additional choices on offer, virtualization is a powerful and beneficial tool in an IT department’s arsenal. As a result, IT managers find themselves like Hamlet, wondering whether ‘tis more cost effective to endure the slings and arrows of physical servers or to virtualize against a sea of ever-growing infrastructure and ever-intensifying business demand.
In short, to V, or not to V? That is the question.
Virtualization burst onto the scene promising IT managers the moon. While virtualization may not have reached the moon, it’s definitely among the stars of a modern IT department. There are several compelling reasons to embrace virtualization:
- You need flexibility. Virtualization is a great way to assemble an “odd couple” of systems that would never be able to cooperate with each other on a single physical server. Linux and Windows on the same server! Disparate applications sharing the same resources! Cats and dogs living togeth….oh, sorry about that. Either way, if you need flexibility, virtualization is a great way to achieve that adding onerous levels of complexity or a large and unwieldy physical server footprint to your organization.
- You value availability: Virtual infrastructure is incredibly elastic, since you can easily do a v-motion and move a virtual instance from a problematic virtual host to a host that’s actively working, without any visibility or impact to end-users. If your application needs to be highly available, or if your users demand high availability, then virtualization could be a great fit for your infrastructure.
- You want speed. A major global insurance broker was facing a serious problem with its IT infrastructure. While IT generally received high marks from business leaders, everyone was frustrated by the speed – or lack thereof – in server provisioning. It could take between 30-60 days between the original request for a server and that server’s deployment within the environment. The company undertook an aggressive virtualization program and implemented process changes to streamline server provisioning. At the end of the program, the average time to deploy a server reduced to 3 days. This is the kind of benefit you and your organization can use, and virtualization is a great tool for moving at the speed of 21st-Century business.
- You have a robust need for non-production environments. If you insist on relying on on-premises infrastructure, virtualization can be a perfect solution for non-production environments such as development and QA, for all the reasons outlined above.
- You want to save money without compromising service. If your IT department is under cost pressures, virtualization could be the way to go. It presents upfront costs, but virtualization helps with IT costs that aren’t related to physical servers. More virtualization means fewer servers, smaller data center footprints, lower energy costs, and, in some cases, the ability to consolidate data center locations. This can present massive cost benefits without scaling back any of the services you provide.
Not to V
There are equally compelling reasons why your organization might not want to virtualize, despite the known advantages:
- Your service is a resource hog. If performance is paramount, and the service is known to be a heavy user of system resources, it doesn’t make sense to virtualize. Like a spoiled child with his toys, an application that is used to hogging all the RAM, processing power, and disk I/O on a server will throw a performance tantrum when it’s suddenly asked to share with other applications or services. A physical server will out-perform a virtual server set up with the same parameters 10 times out of 10 because virtualization presents an inherent tax upon the underlying server architecture. Moving a heavily resource-dependent service into a virtual environment is a recipe for failure.
- Your service or application is hardware dependent. In today’s modular IT world, it’s hard to remember that hardware dependencies can still be coded into applications. If an application is hard-coded to use a specific piece of hardware within a server, it won’t work properly in a virtual environment, and you will suffer a loss of money, time, and business goodwill. It’s important to review any application or service you plan to virtualize so you can prevent this situation from happening.
- Your IT footprint is small. Virtualization solutions present a heavy upfront cost, often thousands of dollars, to IT organizations. If your IT footprint isn’t that big, it’s worth considering other options, such as cloud. You will likely never have enough volume to realize economies of scale and see the true benefits of virtualization.
- You don’t have the license. Some vendors include restrictions against virtual environments in their license agreements, and violation could cost thousands or millions of dollars, depending on the terms. Please look at your vendor agreements closely, and don’t tempt the IT fates if there are restrictions. It could end up costing you dearly.
- Your service is based on obscure or unsupported operating systems. When a server is running a legacy operating system that the virtual infrastructure doesn’t support, the virtualization program will either take significantly more time and money to complete or fail entirely. Careful planning and analysis are needed.
- Your underlying servers aren’t up to snuff. No amount of virtualization can compromise for a server that either doesn’t meet or barely meets the minimum requirements for your chosen hypervisor. That system will not run well – or even adequately – if this is the case. If you don’t have servers that can handle virtualization, then virtualization should be off the table.
Virtualization is a wonderful tool that has realized countless benefits within the IT world. However, this doesn’t mean that virtualization is the right answer in any and every situation.
Join us next time when we examine the pros and cons of embracing cloud computing!