Is your server room cluttered with noisy, hot, energy-hungry servers? Each physical server increases overhead and contributes to risk of hardware failure. It can even be a challenge to keep server rooms properly cooled.
Server virtualization is a low-cost way to reduce clutter, complexity and risk. When you virtualize, you run several virtual servers “piggyback” on a single physical server. The virtual servers share the resources (processor, memory, and storage) of the physical server.
It is natural to wonder if sharing hardware resources will be detrimental to performance. The answer to that challenge, though, is to scale-up the physical server’s resources. Instead of investing in several low-range servers, you invest in a single, midrange unit. A properly-equipped physical server will have more than enough resources to host all of your virtual servers. Ironically, because the beefed-up physical server has a higher performance ceiling than lower cost units would, performance of virtualized servers is likely to be greater than that of alternative standalone servers.
Virtualization also benefits dependability. Midrange server hardware features redundant CPU’s, hard drives, and memory — no longer does a single failure of one of these devices stop the server from functioning. You also have better options to respond remotely when a virtual server freezes-up or has a startup issue. For example, you can remotely hard power-cycle a virtual server instead of requiring someone to physically unplug a standalone server. Reducing your physical server count also reduces load on your auxiliary power solutions (i.e. a UPS or backup generator) so that they can sustain your equipment longer during power outages. Finally, virtualization reduces heat generated in your server room, helping to keep operating temperatures within a safe range at all times.
The path to virtualization can be quick and painless. Existing standalone Windows servers can be “virtualized” by cloning their physical hard disk straight to the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) of a new virtual machine. Most device drivers will update automatically when Windows starts up on the virtual machine, although you need to take special care to ensure that common/generic hard drive controller is enabled prior to booting.
There are many software products designed to create and host virtual servers. We happen to be most familiar with Microsoft’s Hyper-V server, and couldn’t be more impressed with the product. It is included free with current copies of Windows Server, and requires no additional licensing. Hyper-V will even allow you to run non-Windows virtual machines (such as Linux) alongside your Windows ones.
Virtualization has been a “home run” for our clients, and it can be for you too.