perspective The initial interest in virtualization was on pure-play server consolidation and its corresponding savings on capital expenditure and management. Now, organizations are looking to take virtualization to the next level--that of enhancing availability.
Application availability and the business continuity that results from this, can now be improved since virtual machines (VMs) can quickly be brought online on other hardware in the event of a failure. This provides a much quicker alternative to building a new physical server. It is also significantly less costly in terms of time and money than complex application-specific clustering offerings.
Availability is additionally improved as hardware maintenance can be performed non-disruptively when moving a live VM to another server. As such, virtualization helps IT deliver better service levels to the business. Tools with advanced functionality simplify disaster recovery and improve reliability by fully orchestrating and automating the recovery of systems after a disaster.
There is also an increasing realization that virtualization can impact the desktop computing infrastructure (not just servers) by simplifying the rollout and patching of thousands of desktops. It allows centralized management of an organization's desktops from within the data center where IT has advanced technologies and strong process control that usually do not exist outside the center. Besides efficiency, there are huge positive security implications to this centralized model.
Storage virtualization for businesses
In its purest form, virtualization lets users add storage capacity using inexpensive, commodity disk and tape drives to dynamically manage those storage resources as virtual storage pools, with little regard for what physically resides on the backend. Intelligent storage services have historically been implemented within storage systems or in host-based software running on servers.
Today's enterprise-class infrastructures typically include multi-vendor server environments, diverse connectivity technologies, and multi-vendor tiered storage environments. Organizations require the ability to allocate any storage to any application based on the needs of the business, and to do so non-disruptively. Networked storage virtualization enables organizations to deliver the right information at the right performance level and the right functionality to the business at the lowest total cost.
Virtualization also promises to enhance overall platform independence, along with system flexibility and utilization. Maximizing system flexibility and utilization are critical to ensuring the storage investment is delivering the tangible benefits and dividends expected. Virtualization is not simply a fancy way of viewing and interacting with data, but can tangibly improve the performance of enterprise storage and the value of business information.
In addition, virtualization breaks the dependency on the underlying hardware. It creates a virtual layer over the servers/storage from multiple vendors and creates a pool where various applications can be dynamically provisioned as required by the customer.
In essence, virtualization enables the creation of logical (virtual) representations of physical IT resources such as memory, networks, servers and storage--that perform as if they were actual resources. In virtualized storage environments, these logical components can interact with their physical counterparts including SANs (storage area networks), disk arrays, tape components and other storage media.
The combination of server and storage virtualization provides an unmatched IT infrastructure foundation in terms of flexibility and agility, which enables an IT department to:
- Easily deal with changes in the business environment;
- Redeploy equipment;
- Spend in small increments as business conditions warrant, instead of big up-front investments and overcapacity;
- Deliver meaningfully differentiated QoS (quality of service) levels at meaningfully differentiated costs;
- Transition to newer technologies in storage and servers without disruption to users; and
- Appropriately match resources to the criticality of the business application.