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Why you need to explore server virtualisation

Virtualization. It’s a hot technology right now, but there is a mystique to the concept that makes many small businesses shy away from the idea.

Some may have experience with virtualization on the desktop. Running Windows on a Mac, Linux on Windows, or other clever uses of running a limited OS environment useful for testing purposes.

Big enterprise has seen significant benefits in the use of virtualized servers as the technology has matured over the past two years. But it is still difficult for many in smaller businesses to understand where the big wins lie.

At a Dell roundtable event in Sydney this week, some key benefits were outlined that help to clarify the point at which a business will begin to gain an advantage from a move to virtual server technology.

The short answer? It seems once you are in need of four or more servers, a number of cost benefits begin to appear. According to one customer at the roundtable, Ken Thai from CHEP, a single physical server was costing around $5,000 to $6,000. Their new virtual servers cost around $20,000, but on that server, they were now able to run the equivalent of 20 servers through virtualization. Suddenly it was easier to provide his team with more options, more capacity for testing new ideas, and to rapidly start and stop virtual servers depending on the needs of any project.

In other words, you can reduce the number of physical servers while gaining the ability to provide more computing power, and with greater flexibility, and a relatively small carbon footprint. This plays very nicely into the increasingly prominent ‘Green IT’ movement, with cost savings across power and cooling requirements for your business server needs.

For those who have also been using older server hardware, new systems based around the latest Intel ‘Nehalem’ processors will see further cost savings from the reduced power requirements. This is most notable in how well new processors reduce their power draw when idle.

Rapid deployment was another major win with virtualization. Hearing companies move from deployments that took a month with physical servers now taking just two hours with virtualization shows significant benefits in any environment where a new server raised quickly can help the business gain a competitive edge, or serve a client with same-day impact.

While the story is largely positive for anyone in need of more than a handful of servers, virtualization does create some new challenges. While physical server management and related hardware issues become less of a concern, the new challenge for IT staff is effective management of the new virtual environment. Allocating virtual servers, managing and tweaking the baseline installations ready for rapid deployment, and optimizing task and project distribution across the systems are just a few of the new concerns. But compared to the problems of physical servers, these are more positive challenges that have a more proactive outlook. Less firefighting, more forward-looking.

Improved performance, greater flexibility, reduced costs, and a better environmental footprint. If that doesn’t make server virtualization sound like a good idea, nothing will. #Seamus Byrne is is a technology journalist and the founder, director of creative, and host of Byteside.

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