Over the past few decades, organizations have built large, expensive IT infrastructures to support the multiple configurations and applications across their network. Dedicated servers and storage resources were associated with a single application.

Most organizations accepted this autonomy for fear that having multiple applications on a single server would increase the risk of a system-wide failure. However hardware costs were higher and resources were significant underutilized.

What is Virtualization?

The Gartner Group defines virtualization as “The pooling of IT resources, (e.g., computing power, memory, storage capacity) in a way that masks the physical nature and boundaries of those resources from the user.” The virtualization concept was introduced years ago with mainframes, which allowed users access select portions of its memory.

The new generation of virtualization allows organizations to partition server and storage resources to maximize capacity while avoiding the risk of instability associated with multiple applications on a single resource. Virtualization can be applied across multiple infrastructure layers including desktop/laptop, software applications, storage, and operating systems. For simplicity sake, we will refer specifically to server virtualization in this article.

Virtualization Reduces Costs

The recent buzz over virtualization is well-founded given the implications it has on server utilization, application management, and overall cost efficiency. According to The Gartner Group, the true utilization of an Intel server averages between 5%-10% of actual capacity. Virtual technology allows for unique partitioning of server resources so multiple applications can be deployed and higher utilization rates can be achieved. This is possible because virtualization all but eliminates the possibility of creating an unstable environment when multiple applications are running on a singe server.

The benefits to IT managers and administrators are numerous. Virtualization allows them to shift resources as necessary in reaction to a dynamic IT environment. Additionally, because virtualization often eliminates the need for new hardware, it can result in faster deployment of applications and simplified budget management.

Virtualization to the Rescue

Virtualization also relates to disaster recovery. If two unique locations in an organization are networked, the process of moving data related to specific applications to a second facility is relatively quick. Conceptually, it is simply a matter of shifting resources across a network rather than shifting resources inside of a single unit.

Is Virtualization Right for Your Organization?

The concept of virtualization has come a long way in the past few decades and more organizations are recognizing the benefits. If multiple servers, desktops, laptops, and storage units are currently running numerous applications, virtualization may be a way to streamline your system and reduce costs.

In contemplating if virtualization is right for your organization, factors such as maintenance, training, staff resources, and budget should be primary considerations. Despite the consolidation of hardware, virtualization may not necessarily reduce staff requirements. More likely, staff skills will need to be shifted rather than eliminated. Ultimately, the decision to adopt virtualization technology is unique to each organizations distinctive IT infrastructure.