The Many Benefits of Virtualization

By Krishnakumar Madhavan, Head - IT, KLA-Tencor India

Introduction

Virtualization is being used by a growing number of organizations to reduce power consumption and air conditioning needs and trim the building space and land requirements that have always been associated with server farm growth. Virtualization also provides high availability for critical applications, and streamlines application deployment and migrations. Virtualization can simplify IT operations and allow IT organizations to respond faster to changing business demands.

The socio-political ramifications of global warming requiring good corporate citizens to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, creates an added incentive for virtualization.

The availability of better virtual machine isolation through new Intel® Virtual Technology hardware support in commodity systems together with the broad availability of virtualization software provides a level of efficiency to meet these demands.

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is a combination of software and hardware engineering that creates Virtual Machines (VMs) - an abstraction of the computer hardware that allows a single machine to act as if it were many machines.

• Without VMs: A single OS owns all hardware resources

• With VMs: Multiple OSes, each running its own virtual machine, share hardware resources

• Virtualization enables multiple operating systems to run on the same physical platform

Advantages of Using Virtualization

Today’s IT intensive enterprise must always be on the lookout for the latest technologies that allow businesses to run with fewer resources while providing the infrastructure to meet today and future customer needs. Virtualization utilizing Intel Virtualization Technology is the cutting edge of enterprise information technology. Intel is closely working with VMware, XENSource, Jaluna, Parallels, tenAsys, VirtualIron, RedHat, Novell and other VMM developers.

 Primary Advantages of Server Virtualization

1. Reduce number of servers: Partitioning and isolation, the characteristics of server virtualization, enable simple and safe server consolidation. Through consolidating, the number of physical servers can be greatly reduced. This alone brings benefits such as reduced floor space, power consumption and air conditioning costs. However, it is essential to note that even though the number of physical servers is greatly reduced, the number of virtual servers to be managed does not change. Therefore, when virtualizing servers, installation of operation management tools for efficient server management is recommended.

2. Reduce TCO: Server consolidation with virtualization reduces costs of hardware, maintenance, power, and air conditioning. In addition, it lowers the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by increasing the efficiency of server resources and operational changes, as well as virtualization-specific features. As a result of today’s improved server CPU performance, a few servers have high resource-usage rates but most are often underutilized. Virtualization can eliminate such ineffective use of CPU resources, plus optimize resources throughout the server environment. Furthermore, because servers managed by each business division’s staff can be centrally managed by a single administrator, operation management costs can be greatly reduced.

3. Improve availability and business continuity: One beneficial feature of virtualized servers not available in physical server environments is live migration. With live migration, virtual servers can be migrated to another physical server for tasks such as performing maintenance on the physical servers without shutting them down. Thus there is no impact on the end user. Another great advantage of virtualization technology is that its encapsulation and hardware-independence features enhance availability and business continuity.

4. Increase efficiency for development and test environments: At system development sites, servers are often used inefficiently. When different physical servers are used by each business division’s development team, the number of servers can easily increase. Conversely, when physical servers are shared by teams, reconfiguring development and test environments can be time and labour consuming. Such issues can be resolved by using server virtualization to simultaneously run various operating system environments on one physical server, thereby enabling concurrent development and test of multiple environments. In addition, because development and test environments can be encapsulated and saved, reconfiguration is extremely simple.

Testing and development

Use of a VM enables rapid deployment by isolating the application in a known and controlled environment. Unknown factors such as mixed libraries caused by numerous installs can be eliminated. Severe crashes that required hours of reinstallation now take moments by simply copying a virtual image.

Dynamic Load Balancing and Disaster Recovery

As server workloads vary, virtualization provides the ability for virtual machines that are over utilizing the resources of a server to be moved to underutilized servers. This dynamic load balancing creates efficient utilization of server resources.

Disaster recovery is a critical component for IT, as system crashes can create huge economic losses. Virtualization technology enables a virtual image on a machine to be instantly re-imaged on another server if a machine failure occurs.

Virtual Desktops

Multinational flexibility provides seamless transitions between different operating systems on a single machine reducing desktop footprint and hardware expenditure.

Improved System Reliability and Security

Virtualization of systems helps prevent system crashes due to memory corruption caused by software like device drivers. VT-d for Directed I/O Architecture provides methods to better control system devices by defining the architecture for DMA and interrupt remapping to ensure improved isolation of I/O resources for greater reliability, security, and availability.

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