10 New Reasons to Virtualize Your Infrastructure

by Kenneth Hess

The cost savings that comes with virtualization makes an easy selling point, but there are other reasons the technology makes sense. Here are 10 reasons to consider virtualization that, although not top of mind, are worthy of consideration.

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You've heard only a few of the reasons that virtualization is a hot technology: It saves money, it lowers the number of physical servers, and it is a green. However, there are other reasons to virtualize your infrastructure, especially for those who work with virtual machines as their primary job duty.

These 10 reasons are aimed at the system administrators and virtualization administrators who manage those environments.

1. Common Management Interface

Having all your servers available in a single application is cool, but the ability to control those servers from that single interface is downright arctic. Virtualization offers access to virtual machine (VM) hardware, consoles and storage. Your entire gaggle of systems as readily available as a pocket protector full of trade show pens is almost too good to be true.

2. ILO Not Required

For the unlucky lot whose hands-on techs don't setup your Integrated Lights Out (ILO) interfaces, virtualization removes that burden for the better. Virtualization allows you to boot a VM from a powered-off state without the need for physical access to the system. The number of saved trips into the data center is worth the most minuscule return on investment from switching to a virtual infrastructure.

3. Easy "Hardware" Changes

Changing hardware and upgrading systems is no trip to the beach. In fact, it's absolutely maddening inside even the most plush data centers where you must kneel, stretch and bend in unnatural ways to break open a case, remove old hardware and install the new pieces. And, after all that fun, your hardware might not work and you have to repeat the process -- possibly multiple times. You can upgrade memory, increase the number of CPUs and add new hard disks to a VM with a few mouse clicks. You won't need any tools, yoga lessons or trips to the chiropractor after upgrading the hardware in a VM.

4. Snapshots

Before you read another line, go and take a snapshot of your favorite physical server. Can't do that, you say? You're correct, you can't. VMs have the unique fortune to have snapshot capability built in. A snapshot is an exact copy of your working VM prior to doing something to it that has the potential to make it not work. Fortunately, should that happen, you can revert to the snapshot and remove the faulty VM.

5. Prototyping

VMs are the perfect computer-flavored "guinea pigs" that happily promote the concept of a "do over." Using a standard VM, you can prototype an application, database or operating system enhancement without spending hours reimaging a physical system after each unsuccessful attempt.

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6. Fast System Communications

Host-to-guest and guest-to-guest communications occur without any hops or standard physical hardware restrictions. Private VLANs create system-to-system communications that are secure and fast. Using a private VLAN for a group of VMs means that you can create a multi-tier application with limited outside network exposure and without a lengthy set of ALLOW and DENY network rules.

7. Easy Decommissioning

To decommission a physical system, you must touch the system multiple times: Turn off network ports, wipe the disks, unplug the system, remove the system from the rack and finally dispose of the system. A VM's decommisioning process involves the same general steps but there are no steps made to a data center. And, there are no systems to remove or to return. Removing a VM from inventory takes a few seconds.

8. Templating

How many gold disks does it take to support a data center? The answer is, one for every type of new hardware that passes through the magnetically-locked doors. How many Windows Server 2008 R2 VM templates do you require? One. You need one template that contains everything needed for deployment that, incidentally, takes minutes to complete. A template allows to truly create a single master gold disk for your system deployments.

9. Fast Deployment

VMs require no shipping, no installation, no power hookups, no network drops and no SAN cabling. Using templates or staged ISO images, VM deployments take minutes or hours not weeks or months.

10. Dynamic Capacity

How far in advance would you have to plan to scale-up for a major marketing campaign that requires new physical computing capacity? Virtualization allows you to rapidly respond to changing business conditions. You can scale-up when you need extra capacity and scale back when you don't. Virtualization defines dynamic computing.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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This article was originally published on Friday Oct 29th 2010
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