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Published on Forbes.com
The fastest growing trend in IT is virtualization, a software technology that allows you to run multiple servers on a single piece of hardware. Virtualization also lets you start up new servers quickly and move servers to new hardware without interrupting service in case of failure. In addition to saving enormous sums of money on large sites, virtualization is spreading to SMBs and serves as a foundation for cloud computing.
But many misconceptions or myths surround virtualization today. Many of these myths come from limitations that existed in the past or are spread by skeptics who don’t understand the technology. Here are a few of the common myths.
Myth 1: Virtualization adds another application layer to my servers and slows them down.
This myth has some truth to it, but it is not always the case. Some virtualization vendors, such as VMware ( VMW – news – people ) and Microsoft ( MSFT – news – people ), have two versions of their products. VMware, for example, offers two virtualization products–VMware Workstation and VMware Server–as applications running on Windows and Linux. But its flagship offering, VMware ESX (or ESXi in its latest version), is a bare metal hypervisor that performs close to the speed of the native hardware.
Myth 2: Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server cannot be virtualized.
Just a few years ago, when single core CPUs were the standard, it was unrealistic to virtualize Microsoft SQL or Exchange workloads, but on today’s CPUs with four or more cores, these applications can and are being virtualized with great success. Virtualization platforms today allow for larger hosts at the same cost as yesterday’s systems, which means far more available capacity for virtual workloads. The key to virtualizing more demanding workloads today is simply proper planning and a solid understanding of the technology.
Myth 3: Consolidation ratios (virtual machines per chip) are the most important criterion.
One of the more common myths is that the success of a virtualization project depends on a target consolidation number, typically 15-to-1 or even higher. Customers often exclude candidate servers whose resource demands would lower the overall consolidation ratio. However, a consolidation ratio of 4-to-1 or 6-to-1 still represents a positive ROI–it’s all about a shift in mindset. The soft benefits of virtualization, such as simplified disaster recovery, provide cost advantages over consolidation ratios alone. You can gain more benefits from virtualization by opening up the door to servers that would otherwise be excluded because they would break an arbitrary consolidation ratio.
Myth 4: Virtualization is only for large companies.
Virtualization is for any organization with two or more servers. Virtualization has many additional benefits other than workload consolidation, because it encompasses features such as high availability, live migration, streamlined backups and fault tolerance. These are only a few of the many features that can benefit any organization. These features help organizations of any size to simplify maintenance and reduce the overall cost of their infrastructure.
Myth 5: Virtualization is expensive.
Virtualization can seem like a costly undertaking in the beginning, but it will pay for itself given the opportunity. When you tackle virtualization on your own and you receive your quote, don’t be discouraged. Up front, the cost for the hypervisor may be a little expensive, but the real benefits come after you embark on your virtualization journey. The cost savings from using fewer servers, less power, less cooling, less operating system licensing and reduced maintenance will have you wanting to virtualize more. Consider doing an ROI calculation in the beginning to really understand what virtualization will cost your organization.
Myth 6: Virtualization is only for servers.
Many companies can benefit from desktop virtualization. This will give the benefit of centralized management, a common desktop model and better disaster recovery options. With a thin client or connection software, users are able to connect to their desktops from anywhere in the world. Single disk imaging technologies allow a large reduction in the storage requirements, eliminating the superfluous duplication of copies of the exact same standard desktop build. Other technologies, such as application virtualization, further drive simplified and centralized management, enhancing ROI.
Myth 7: Virtualization is not secure.
Out of the box, any software can be deemed not secure. But following best practices for network, storage and operating system configurations will produce a secure environment. The U.S. Department of Defense provides several guides for securing your environment , covering most popular operating systems. In addition, it’s a good idea to develop your own security standards or “minimum security requirements,” establish policy for adherence and perform regular testing to ensure compliance.
The authors are writing a book, Designing and Managing VMware in the Enterprise , for O’Reilly Media.
Sidney Smith is a principal consultant with VIRTERA and a blogger on DailyHypervisor . . He spends most of his time architecting and implementing large-scale VMware and Hyper-V virtualization environments, as well as performing training and in-depth health analysis for large fortune 100 and 500 companies. He holds certifications from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, Cisco, and Novell.
David Convery is a VMware certified design expert with Anexinet and a blogger on DailyHypervisor . He holds certifications from VMware, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat, Citrix, Microsoft, Brocade, Symantec and Novell.
Mike Burke (VCP, MCP) is a practice director for VIRTERA . He has over 10 years experience working closely with Citrix and Microsoft products and solutions, and over five years experience architecting large worldwide Virtual Infrastructure solutions based on technologies from Microsoft and VMware.