Let’s talk about Virtualization (OS).

I am a passionate advocate of operating system virtualization, especially in the server room.  OS virtualization is probably the most important thing to happen to the server room since Ethernet (in combination with TCP/IP).  How so?  Ethernet changed everything people understood about computers at the time.  It made computers more connected and began to end the chapter of standalone human driven computers.

OS virtualization has begun to do the same thing.  Now you don’t need as many physical computers to do the same amount of work.  Underutilized computers can now be pushed to their limits by maximizing processing power, centralizing storage, and offloading specific functions off of the core system.  I truly believe that there is no greater game changer to computing than OS virtualization.

Benefits of virtualization (mostly based on VMware, and not limited to them):

  • Fewer physical computers
  • Less underutilized equipment
  • Less equipment (nics, processors, memory [in most cases], HBA’s, etc.)
  • More OS’s per machine (VMware runs Windows, Linux, Unix, Solaris, Netware.  Run Windows on a Mac, etc.)
  • Centralized Storage (this was possible before, but virtualization encourages and makes it cost effective.)
  • Improved redundancy, availability, reliability
  • Ability to dump “legacy” equipment or migrate that app that no one could rebuild.
  • Run a VM across the HW of your choice
  • No more HW upgrade headaches (just add compatible machines as needed and hot migrate everything)
  • Shared processing, networking, memory.  (That means that you only need 2-3 nics for 10 VM’s instead of 10-15 nic’s for 10 physical machines.)
  • Add resources on demand (Need more processing, memory, nic?  Just increase the priority and/or resource share for your VM).
  • More environmentally friendly

OK, I think you get the gist.  OS virtualization and server consolidation specifically has many benefits and is the #1 thing you can do right now to improve your computing environment.  Please share your thoughts and feel free to lean on me for advice on your virtualization project.

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7 responses to “Let’s talk about Virtualization (OS).

  1. Any suggestions of a good beginning reference?

    I run a small “bootstrap, quick hit” IT team with too many W2K PCs. They are taking over the room and the VP is saying I can look at blade servers and virtualization.

    Would love to do that and have started looking. But any pointers would help…

  2. Hi Todd,

    I am a strong believer in server virtualization. There are a few things you can look at. One is from InfoWorld. It will give you a broad look at what’s happening. http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/02/12/07OPeditor_1.html

    Another is a book by two VMware experts. This gives you a look at the technicals behind VMware. http://www.amazon.com/VMware-ESX-Server-Advanced-Technical/dp/0971151067/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-9874108-9894459?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176179217&sr=8-1

    Some will say that you have choices other than VMware. I don’t agree. Xen, Sun, and Microsoft are inflexible when it comes to running multiple OS’s on the same system. I also believe that VMware’s method of virtualization is less susceptible to common computer issues. Also, VMware’s features are outstanding.

    You can also download a free trial from VMware which is pretty nice. Make sure you eval ESX if you are after Server Virtualization.

    Blades are something to consider depending on your, size, processing, and I/O needs. Let’s say you have a lot of systems that are bad candidates for virtualization, you might be able to fit them on blades. Blades can also work if you have hundreds of servers to virtualize. But you’ll learn this as you go along.

    Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help. I have already gone through the research phase, so I have lots of info.

  3. Todd, I forgot to mention something obvious. You should purchase and install VMware workstation. It will teach you VMware virtualization on the most basic level. Everything else is just a larger scale experience of Workstation.

  4. Valuable information! Looking forward to seeing your notes posted. The information you have posted is very usefu.

  5. Keep going on, good stuff. Thank you for this valuable information.

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