There are a million articles and blog posts out there about virtualization and cloud computing and their respective benefits, but here’s the reason you should read this one: to find out why virtualization provides even MORE benefits when delivered in the cloud.
More and more data centers are virtualized
Obviously, by now you’ve embraced virtualization within your data centers. At the end of 2012, about 70 percent of all companies were running at least some application workloads as virtual instances. Confidence in virtualization has grown over the last several years as more resiliency features were built into hypervisors and virtual machine (VM) management platforms and companies have increasingly moved more of their workloads and more of their critical applications to virtualized environments. I found this one industry study that showed that the percent of workload instances of SAP, Oracle, DB, and Microsoft SQL that were virtualized roughly doubled from 2010 to 2012.
Let me review the benefits of virtualization
I’m not even sure why I’m bothering to recap the benefits of virtualization. I guess it’s for the Rip Van Winkles among us. If, by chance, you’ve been sleeping for the last century, virtualization allows you to consolidate and run applications onto fewer physical servers, which drives up your server utilization rates and cuts down on your operational costs. Additionally, virtualization enables quick provisioning and deployment, improved workload balancing, and enhanced resiliency and availability by giving you the ability to dynamically move VMs from server to server.
What we are now figuring out (and some of you are more ahead than others) is that virtualization and cloud computing are a match made in heaven. Virtualization’s benefits can be enhanced when VMs are run on a cloud service. More specifically, a managed cloud service.
For example, one of virtualization’s key benefits is that companies can make more efficient use of their IT resources. This benefit is compounded when using a cloud infrastructure service. That’s because cloud infrastructure services let you optimize capacity based on needs. Basically, you only have to pay for the resources required to satisfy the performance characteristics of your VMs. If you need more capacity or compute power, i.e., more of your users need access to the same application or your database doubles in size, you can leverage the cloud provider’s infrastructure to meet these new demands rather than build your own.
Also, virtualization gives you a way to easily migrate and balance workloads based on performance requirements. This is particularly useful when your workloads are unpredictable or vary greatly. An extreme example of this is the workload an e-commerce site might experience on Cyber Monday or after a major advertising campaign launches. With an on-premises solution, you would need to pre-plan and provision spare capacity in order to balance the spike in workloads. With a cloud service, you could ask your cloud provider to proactively add more capacity in anticipation of a spike in the workload. And once your activity has returned to normal levels and that spare capacity is no longer needed, you can reduce your requirements with the provider.
A few points for you to consider when migrating virtualized applications from an on-premises infrastructure to a cloud service…
The most important thing is that you need to carefully evaluate the mission-critical nature of your various applications and their needs against the available cloud service provider offerings. Not all applications are treated equally, nor should they be. As a result, some will be a good fit for cloud and others a good fit for managed hosting services. Your personnel, customers, and partners today demand 24/7 access to mission-critical and business-critical applications. At the same time, you need to ensure the security and stability of those applications.
Because downtime leads to lost productivity, lost revenue, and perhaps the permanent loss of customers and clients, you need high availability and a reliable and predictable way to recover your VMs. That means your cloud provider must have the expertise and automation solutions to ensure that your availability and recovery time objectives (RTOs) are met.
If you have requirements for data protection or the need to meet regulatory obligations, you might want to pick a secure, managed cloud service or a private cloud solution. The bottom line is, you will want to review your workloads and determine which are best-suited for a cloud treatment and which may need to remain in a more traditional virtualized environment.
This post was originally published on Forbes and Sungard Availability Services.