and increasing long-term business flexibility.
Much like the human brain, most physical servers use only a fraction of their computing power. Since conventional servers are just larger versions of what you have on your desk, conventional server technology matches just one operating system with one physical server. With only one system to maintain, the server is only using a portion of its capacity, leaving huge portions of server capacity unused.
Server virtualization enables multiple, independent operating systems to run “virtually” on a single server, creating multiple, independent computers on each server. By consolidating servers, virtualization allows businesses to run on two to three servers at maximum capacity, as opposed to 10 servers at only 20 percent capacity. This not only decreases maintenance costs by an estimated 50 to 70 percent, but also increases the overall efficiency of the system.
Further, server virtualization allows businesses to rapidly repurpose their information technology (IT) infrastructure, providing greater availability, higher fault tolerance and improved continuity of operations in the event of a disaster or failure. Poor planning, on the other hand, can eat away at the very savings that server virtualization offers.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind if you are considering server virtualization:
1. Base your virtualization investment decisions on reality, not theory. Conduct a comprehensive assessment of your server environment to identify which pieces of hardware you can virtualize. Free tools from companies like VMware or Microsoft can help identify exactly which servers are good candidates for virtualization, enabling you to plan for your specific needs. Other companies, including CDW, offer complete virtualization assessment services that are worth investigating
2. Before virtualizing your servers, be certain that the software applications you use are compatible with virtualization software. Qualified solution providers and most virtualization software vendors can help you determine if your server is suitable for virtualization
3. Technology advances rapidly, and the hypervisor/virtualization platform you select may not be compatible with aging server hardware. Even servers as young as five-years-old may not be viable candidates for virtualization, as they are not able to run common virtualization software systems. In addition, the most common hypervisors – Citrix, Microsoft and VMware – are each unique platforms. So, before purchasing, make an informed decision about which hypervisor will operate most effectively with your hardware platforms and best meet your specific business needs
4. Revisit your backup architecture as you prepare to virtualize your servers. Many vendors offer enhanced backup products for virtual infrastructure that can reduce costs considerably. However, if your business has a long-term maintenance contract, consider whether changing your backup architecture will mean a broken contract and financial penalties
5. To realize the greatest cost savings and return on investment (ROI), eliminate as many physical servers as possible. After consolidating your applications onto a virtualized server platform, turn off, recycle or sell the now-unused servers
6. Because virtual and physical environments require different forms of maintenance, be sure to take the time to properly train your staff during implementation. Often, small businesses feel incapable of making considerable investments toward training, as it is typically an expensive undertaking. However, improper maintenance can lead to countless repairs and lost functionality that will surely cost more over time
About the CDW Server Virtualization Life Cycle ReportCDW based this report upon its sales experience and an online survey of 387 IT managers from business organizations with 100 employees or more, taken in June 2009. The sample size equates to a margin of error of +/- 4.98% at 95% confidence for the group. For a copy of the complete CDW Server Virtualization Lifecycle Report and to find other virtualization resources, please visit http://www.cdw.com/virtualizationlifecycle.