Virtualization Not a Final Cure for Server Growth

While virtualization may save your data center from being overrun by servers, it shouldn’t be viewed as a final cure, IT managers say.

End users have said that while the technology offers to lower infrastructure costs, it is not going to stop server proliferation.

Education resource developer Curriculum Corporation IT manager Graham Williams warned that organizations need to evaluate the benefits and suitability of virtualization, and develop realistic expectations.

"I think [virtualization’s suitability] is horses for courses, but it offers the potential for better service and large savings," Williams said. "However, be prepared to spend money and resources in order to get returns."

Business needs to invest in research and planning before jumping into virtualization, according to Craig Searle, technical team leader at information security consultant SIFT.

"It is a good answer for reducing server growth and physical structures, but my concern is that it is being seen as a cure-all," Searle said. "It needs to be seen as a solution rather than a cure."

Web services and data hosting company Imagineering Technologies Managing Director Matt Proctor echoed Searle’s concerns, adding that virtualization will need to develop further if it is to become more effective at reducing server growth.

"Because it’s a growing solution, the market is still a little immature, but once virtualization is combined with clustering, its commercial prospects and use will increase dramatically," Proctor said.

He said that while the technology represents a migration from a dedicated to shared environment, it is not always necessary to inform hosting customers.

"There is no commercial need to inform the customer, but with shared virtualization in a single or clustered environment they are going to have a change in capacity, so it would be commercially prudent to inform them."

Searle agreed, adding that client concerns will be alleviated if a business has adequate security structures and practices in place, which remove the need to distinguish between dedicated and shared environments.

He said virtualization will be well received among internal IT staff if business creates effective in-house cost models, which allow physical server costs to be defrayed across departments relative to usage.

VMWare systems engineer Andre Kemp said customers are concerned about availability and security rather than the nature of the environment.

"Clients don’t care about whether their data is stored in a virtual or dedicated environment; they care about how secure their data is and they want to know it is available whenever they need it," Kemp said, adding that businesses of all sizes can expect ROI of up to 70 percent on current technology, a figure both Searle and Proctor agreed with.

Kemp said that IT departments are very familiar with virtualization and its benefits because the technology has existed for about 20 years.

"When IT managers think back over the infrastructure they have used for the last 20 years, they notice they have used virtualization in technology ranging from basic virtual device drivers, to VLANs and other things dating back to the DOS days."

"Virtualization offers reduced cost, easier backup and replication, and allows the customer to export their virtual machine to a disc, rather than moving a whole physical server," Kemp said.

-Rodney Gedda, Computerworld Australia

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