The old IT solution of having a client-server system where desktop PCs share data with a central server has, in the last few years, begun to give way to a more flexible way of doing things involving virtualization software either on local servers or in the cloud.
Technologies like VMware mean that you can make more effective use of server hardware by having one machine run several operating systems, in what are known as containers. This virtualization makes delivery of services more flexible and scalable, reducing costs and simplifying management. For enterprises that experience seasonal variations in demand, for example, virtual systems can reduce the amount of capacity that would otherwise be standing idle at slower times.
Virtualization is a bit of a catch-all term, but it covers a number of different technologies. Most common of these is Server Virtualization which involves consolidating a number of servers onto one physical system and running them as virtual machines (VMs). Most servers run at only a fraction of their capacity, so combining them onto one system saves on hardware costs. Added benefits are that management of the system and security is centralised and that it’s easier to scale the system as the business expands.
Virtualization doesn’t stop at servers though. It’s possible to have a virtual network too. This reproduces a physical network in software so that items like switches, firewalls and routers are run as applications instead of being physical devices. This gives IT managers hardware independence and the flexibility to make changes easily, as well as being able to reproduce the configuration on a different machine - good for setting up branch offices, for example.
Storage can be made virtual too. Businesses are storing more and more information and by using a virtual storage pool, it’s easy to add more space as the business expands. Internet of Things devices are beginning to add to the amount of data that needs to be stored, so the ability to respond flexibly to demand becomes more important.
Virtualization software doesn’t have to stay in the back office, since it’s quite possible to run virtual desktop systems too. This has several advantages: you only need to have low-cost hardware on desks, you can control exactly what each individual sees on their screen, you can control security and compliance centrally, and you can provide access for mobile or home workers. Central management means that changes can be rolled out across all of the organisation’s desktops at one time, and also makes it possible for new employees to be added to the system easily, based on existing desktop profiles.
Why virtualization software?
The latest platforms such as VMware can offer significant gains in IT productivity. They can also lead to less downtime, lower costs and a cut in the amount of time spent administering systems and solving problems.
Business is under more pressure than ever to respond quickly to changes in demand, and to comply with the latest rules and regulations for specific industries. It’s also the case that IT systems have become high-profile - especially when they fail or when security breaches occur. Running virtual systems offers greater agility, because the need to add new hardware when changes occur is significantly reduced.
Virtual systems also have several things in common with cloud solutions. Whether you already use cloud solutions or you’re planning to do so in the future, virtualizing your existing systems can help to smooth the transition. Since cloud and virtual systems can be accessed via the same endpoints - whether in the office or on the road - the transition for end users is a seamless one.