Going Virtual – Benefits and Pitfalls

“Virtualization” is a wide-ranging concept and comes in various forms. Each of them can, if used correctly, offer benefits although there are things to watch out for.

Cost Savings

The most complex example is probably server virtualization, where multiple logical servers are run on a single physical machine. One of the main reasons for doing this is cost, with significant savings in hardware capital expenditure and the cost of running that hardware. It can also reduce the incidence of ‘server sprawl’, increase overall up-time and provide improved recovery times in the event of failure. Administration is also simplified, with fewer servers needing to be identified and tasks centralized, while fluctuating workloads can be handled better.

Server virtualization can take some time to set up and control. It may also be difficult to measure and report the performance of individual servers, so the full benefits may be hard to determine.

Network virtualization combines the resources that are available on the network. The bandwidth is split into separate channels so that each one can be re-assigned in real-time to a particular device. This results in simplification and improved flexibility, with the network divided into manageable parts.

Storage virtualization creates what appears to be a single storage device by combining the storage from multiple devices. This means that it can be managed centrally.

Unsupported Applications

At the lower end of the scale, desktop virtualization can be used to run more than one operating system on a single PC. You can use this type of set-up to run applications that aren’t supported by your main operating system (Windows Vista being a typical example of this) or for training purposes.

You may also want to try out another operating system, such as Linux, without having to abandon your existing one and all the applications it supports. The creation of testing environments is also a possibility. However, all operating systems do not support this type of virtualization.

Presentation virtualization is a means of running an application in one location when it is actually installed and run from elsewhere. This gives the opportunity to run the presentation in multiple locations. On a similar theme, application virtualization allows applications to be run on client machines without having to actually install them there.

There are many different types of virtualization possible for all sorts of purposes, with various tools available to handle them. These tools range from free programs such as Microsoft’s Virtual PC or VMWare Workstation through to the more comprehensive and costly applications that you need for complex set-ups.

If virtualization is likely to prove useful, decide what you want to do and then choose the best tools for the job.