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The promise of virtualisation

Virtualisation represents the wave of the future for optimising hardware utilisation and datacenter agility. But for companies to reap the benefits of virtualised infrastructure technologies, a strategy is needed to guide decisions and actions for necessary infrastructure investments. Getting started on virtualisation without having a strategy is like building a house without a blueprint. What you risk is the elements not adding up, not fitting together and the results being less than optimal and cost effective. There are a number of virtualisation technologies to choose from and several architectural layers to consider. Each type of virtualisation brings benefits specific to the problem it addresses. Understanding what these are requires knowing more about the technologies themselves.

For most IT professionals today, the word ‘virtualisation’ conjures up thoughts of running multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. This is hardware virtualisation, and while it is not the only important kind of virtualisation, it is unquestionably the most visible today. The core idea of hardware virtualisation is simple: use software to create a virtual machine (VM) that emulates a physical computer. The most commercially important aspect of hardware virtualisation today is the ability to consolidate workloads from multiple physical servers onto one machine. When used on client machines, this approach is often called desktop virtualisation, while using it on server systems is known as server virtualisation. Desktop virtualisation can be useful in a variety of situations. One of the most common is to deal with incompatibility between applications and desktop operating systems.

But while desktop virtualisation is useful, the real excitement around hardware virtualisation is focused on servers. The primary reason for this is economics: rather than paying for many under-utilised server machines, each dedicated to a specific workload, server virtualisation allows consolidating those workloads onto a smaller number of more fully used machines. This implies fewer people to manage those computers, less space to house them and lesser power to run them, all of which reduces costs. For IT departments, virtualisation brings a host of benefits including ease-of-access; security and compliance; performance and cost and most importantly disaster recovery and server consolidation.

However, along with these tremendous benefits, virtualisation can actually add much more complexity and cost to your environment. Think of virtualisation as supercharging your IT engine. Everything has more power, speed and flexibility. But because they are virtualised, you may not know where your assets reside, how many you really have – think virtual machine sprawl, or how to juggle and optimise them. Experience has taught us that, the more you virtualise, the more essential management becomes. This cannot be overstated. Without strong management capabilities, the benefits you gain from virtualisation technologies will be greatly diminished. Management is glue that brings everything together and unlocks virtualisation's real potential.

Managing a Virtualized World

As an organisation’s computing environment gets more virtualised, it also gets more abstract. Increasing abstraction can increase complexity, making it harder for IT staff to control their world. The corollary is clear: A virtualised world that is not well-managed can be less reliable and perhaps even more expensive than its non-virtualised counterpart.

A fundamental concern in systems management is monitoring and managing the hardware and software in a distributed environment. Virtualisation management technology is one of the most exciting and transformative technologies that addresses these concerns. It has management, monitoring and deployment tools that allow businesses to implement a comprehensive management architecture to control both physical servers and virtual machines. By allowing operations staff to monitor both the software running on physical machines and the physical machines themselves, the technology lets them know what’s happening in their environment. The real power of virtualisation comes when companies implement an integrated virtualisation strategy, along with management solutions that span both virtual and physical resources.

Virtualisation in the Gulf

Virtualisation has been a buzzword in the region for a while now and adoption is finally picking up. Customers understand the massive benefits that virtualisation provides and most enterprises have already begun adoption or are planning for it. Microsoft recently reached a pivotal milestone with the release of Hyper-V, the hypervisor-based virtualisation technology that is a feature of Windows Server 2008. With nearly 1.5 million copies of the Hyper-V beta version distributed globally, customer interest in virtualisation is moving from evaluation to deployment in production environments. With Hyper-V and server virtualisation, customers are one step closer to a comprehensive desktop to datacenter virtualisation solution.

Conclusion

The pull of virtualisation is strong—the economics are too attractive to resist. And for most organisations, there is no reason to resist this pull. So, where should you start, and where do you want to go? Understanding where you are on this path is important in mapping out your technology infrastructure as well-managed virtualisation technologies can make your world better. As the popularity of virtualisation continues to grow, one can expect to see these technologies become the bedrock of modern computing.

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