Benefits of virtualization

According to the exam objectives we need to cover the benefits of virtualization. This is the part of the exam where I feel more comfortable writing because of my experience working on vmware technologies for 8 years.

So let’s get straight to the points that the exam requires.

Power reduction
Power reduction is on top of the list of the the benefits of virtualization. Consolidating or virtualizing a bunch of old servers on fewer state of the art servers will guarantee us the power reduction and usage.

Old servers are not energy-efficient so if you get out and replace all of those servers from the data center you will notice a power reduction. Also by virtualizing your servers you are saving space on the data center, which will also get a room space save and a reduction on cooling.

Reduced infrastructure cost
Although reduced infrastructure cost appears on the objectives on the exam I do not agree with the idea. Just because you are using fewer servers it doesn’t mean that you are reducing the cost of your infrastructure.

In fact it will get more expensive. To illustrate the idea let’s say that you replace 30 old servers with 4 state of the art, energy-efficient and fancy servers. Because of the complexity and availability requirements for the new servers the network ports for the servers will be more expensive. You are buying less ports but those ports are more expensive than it used to be.

If I have to think about reduced infrastructure cost I’ll prefer to think about reduced infrastructure operation cost.

Centralization of computing resources
In the same direction of reduced infrastructure cost is the centralisation of computing resources. You have less equipment to administer so you can easily centralise those on a smaller space. 

Centralized administration
Virtualization technologies provides central management capabilities that allow administrators get the job done from a single console improving the way they get tasks completed.

On virtualization projects that were well executed the infrastructure that supports the virtualization technology gets implemented upfront. Deployment of servers, networks and storage are setup all together before you can use the technology.

Unlike traditional servers were you can setup one and then other the idea with server consolidation-virtualization is to prepare the environment and then administer it. The idea is clear and traditional but if you want to perform a centralized administration you need to get the environment ready upfront.

Thin client vs. full workstations
With the same effort that you can run servers on virtual machines you can run desktops. This is called virtual desktops or virtual desktop infrastructure depending on the vendor that develops the solution.

With VDI you can chose the technology (the client) that will connect the user to the virtual desktop that he or she needs to use.

Full workstations are traditional desktops, the same that you can find on any workspace. Thin clients on the other hand are dumb terminals with almost no processing power. There are different types of thin clients that will be covered on a different post.

The usage of thin clients introduces some benefits:

  • Reduced Power consumption: not having processing power, moving parts or coolers thin client consumes less energy than traditional workstations.
  • Centralized administration: VDI solutions allow administrators to patch, create and manage desktops from a centralized point.
  • Centralized information: since the information is on the virtual desktops on the data center it can be backed up and guarantee an improved data loss prevention.

Enhanced disaster recovery
Virtual machines are files, not physical hardware. IT administrators can use this as an advantage when preparing a disaster recovery plan.

Most of virtualization technologies are hardware-agnostic allowing virtual machines to run on different types of hardware, so an identical hardware is not required on the recovery site anymore.

Files can be copied, moved and replicated across sites. The same happens for virtual machines which simplifies the design and execution of recovery plans.



Licensing costs
By consolidating servers you can get a reduction on licensing costs. Just because you are moving some servers into fewer you will easily see the reduction of the quantity of licences that you need to run the environment.

This idea applies only on server consolidation. If you think on get some savings on server virtualization you are not going to get it if your virtualization plan only goes on a one to one basis.

Because of the physical servers count is going to be the same on the virtual machines you cannot get rid of any license at all. In order to see some savings on licensing you will also need to consolidate the services on fewer virtual machines.

There are some free virtualization technologies out there but not all of them brings all the benefits listed here. If you plan to get an environment with all the benefits get ready to pay for licenses which are not that cheap as you might think. You should consider this licenses cost before planing a virtualization project.

Faster deployment
Virtualization simplifies and enhances server and desktop deployment. Administrators can have a set of server or desktop templates that can be deployed in minutes if resources are available.

As mentioned before virtual machines are files so the creation of a new server involves the copy of a template and the customization of it which includes the hostname and ip address among others.

Maximize hardware utilization
By consolidating or virtualizing your servers on fewer physical you are maximizing hardware utilisation. Traditionally an average server consumes only 10~20% of it full hardware capacity. 

Virtualization allows a more efficient way to maximize hardware utilization taking the traditional percentage to an 80~90% in most cases.

Reduced power and cooling consumption
Having less servers on your data centers reduces the power and cooling consumption requirements. Also less physical spaces is required.

Virtual desktops also reduces power and cooling consumption. By using thin clients power requirements for desktops get reduced to a 20~30 percent depending on the type of thin client you are using.

Also as less energy is consumed by the desktops less heat is released to the working space so there is a cooling saving there also.

There are some technologies like vmware distributed power management that takes power and cooling reduction to the next level.

This post belongs to Explain the purpose and applitaton of virtualization technology