The Advent of Virtualization in Computing


The importance of IT systems is a realization that has been made by most thriving firms. Adequate planning decisions are necessary for meeting business needs by adequately using the right mix of network components.

Physical Infrastructure

Managing computer infrastructure can be a very daunting task in the hardware spectrum. Devices such as servers, switches, firewalls, etc. pose concerns for space, utility expenses, and life expectancy. According to an article titled “Determining your Server Life Expectancy” published by iPoint Technologies, the average server life expectancy is three to five years. Additionally, a server on average uses 18-20 kilowatt hours (KWh) of electricity daily. To put this into context, the US Energy Information Administration reports that the average American home uses 28.9 KWh daily. Therefore, a single server uses about 66% of the electricity it takes to run an entire household!

After considering costs for a single server, it becomes obvious how costly physical equipment is, especially if it is maintained/replaced on schedule; even more so as new equipment continuously displays better capabilities and higher requirements. To maintain operating efficiency, the concept of virtualization comes into play.

How Virtualization Works

Virtualization is simply making use of virtual versions of hardware as a replacement for their physical counterparts. The most common use of this is for server systems. An example of this is one physical server and 10 virtual servers being used in place of 11 physical servers. The virtual option presents lower recurring costs, better life expectancy management (as virtual versions of newer equipment can be created), and better space management.

A physical device hosts virtual devices using what is known as a hypervisor. The hypervisor allows processes and the operating system to function independently of physical hardware. Note that virtual machines still require a normal amount of certain resources such as RAM and Hard Disk space to run. All of this must be available and supplied by the physical host server. So, if four servers all require 16 GB of RAM and 500 GB of Hard Disk space to run, the physical host must have at least 64 GB of RAM and 2 TB of Hard Disk space to spare – this must be separate from the resources it will require to run.

Popular Virtualization Avenues

IT administrators today almost always have some virtual components running on their network. Again, this is particularly true in the context of servers. The three most popular virtualization avenues today are VMWare, Hyper-V, and Microsoft Azure. It is worth noting that Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are quickly increasing in popularity.

VMWare

A subsidiary of Dell, VMWare is noted as being the first company to successfully virtualize 32-bit machine infrastructure. Management of this is quite simple through what is known a vSphere client and the vCenter. The vSphere client allows management of the physical hosts (dubbed ESXi hosts) while the vCenter allows for management of hosts and virtual servers in a central location.

Microsoft Hyper-V

This is Microsoft’s on-premise virtualization platform. Unlike VMWare the hardware used is not necessarily specialized for virtualization. As it is a native, optional feature on Windows machines since the Windows 8 and Server 2012 era, the setup here is more along the lines of making a normal workstation/server into a virtual machine host.

Microsoft Azure

This is Microsoft’s cloud virtualization platform. Unlike the previous options, there is no host required as underlying infrastructure is managed at Microsoft Datacenters. Administration here is done by simply heading to a portal on the web and creating what is needed. As this service is hosted on the internet, a site-to-site VPN is needed to make a connection to existing infrastructure.

It is not possible to overstate the benefits of virtualization which is one of the reasons why there are so many avenues available to achieve it. The most efficient environments today make use of an optimal mix of physical and virtual infrastructure to meet business needs.

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