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Posts Tagged ‘virtualization’

virtualization-NAVVirtualization is a term you hear a lot these days in the business computer world, and for good reason: it represents a way for companies both large and small to save a lot of money on their I.T. costs.  A recent article by journalist Mark Anderson at www.msdynamicsworld.com – one of our favorite Microsoft Dynamics NAV blog sites – serves us some relevant examples.

In its raw form, virtualization is simply the idea of letting additional computer RAM (internal memory chips) serve as the basis for “pretending” you have more than one physical PC.  Utilizing memory, you can in effect replicate the features and capabilities of a whole additional computer – but without the expense of that additional computer hardware.  It’s like having two, or three, or perhaps even four computers – in one!

We’ve done it ourselves at our firm to reduce a dozen or so previous PC servers down to a few.  We advise client to do the same.  It takes some additional software, available from a couple of major sources (and other smaller ones) to make it happen.  Leading virtualization providers today include names like Hyper-V from Microsoft, or its chief competitor VMWare.

NAV software works with either.  As the owner of one Dutch virtualization provider firm based in Netherlands put it: “If you buy a physical machine [today], no matter what you buy, you’re buying way more hardware resources than you actually need.”  That owner, Adiraan Van Bauwel of SQL Perform Europe, cites the example of a three person shop that runs its entire business on NAV using three Hyper-V instances on one physical server.  Each instance allows them to cordon off its business into separate “machines” that can then be compromised, slow down, or even crash without affecting the others.

In effect, it’s like having three physical machines, while only actually paying for one.

The concept scales upwards nicely as well.  Here, Van Bauwell cites the example of a company with 1,000 system users.  They run the VMWare flavor of virtualization.  They keep their legacy system running on one instance even as they set up and test in another instance a new version to which they plan to upgrade.  Users can test and play in the new version (what we at our firm call the “sandbox” version) without disturbing the “real” operating version in the other instance.

“Disaster recovery, walling off every piece of software onto its own isolated machine and snapshotting instances for backup purposes,” is something Van Bauwel says companies should treat like insurance – hope you’ll never need it but be glad if you ever do.

“Functionally, a virtual machine can provide up to 95% and more of similar performance to a physical server,” Van Bauwel says.  And so long as machines keep getting faster, the case for adding some virtualization to one’s Dynamics NAV environment looks like it’ll keep getting stronger too.

 

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network virtualization imageWe often recommend to our clients the benefits of server virtualization – in effect replicating through computer RAM the capabilities of what were previously several servers (application, data, etc.) into one, thereby reducing hardware costs substantially.  We’ve employed virtualization in our own firm to trim many servers down to just a few.  Now, new technologies are emerging that make it possible to virtualize not just your servers, but entire networks.

A recent article in the CIO Journal section of the Wall Street Journal (May, 2014) describes this extension of virtualization, which actually started decades ago on mainframes and moved to (PC) servers in the last decade.  Server virtualization has led to cloud computing, and according to the Journal article “networking people will tell you that network virtualization will be even bigger” than server virtualization, according to American Airlines CIO Maya Leibman.

Other larger companies including Royal Dutch Shell and AT&T are also exploring and, in some cases implementing, virtual networks within their own premises.  It’s moving technology beyond the data center.  Leibman adds, “Some will ask, why do you even need servers at all?  The network can be the backbone of everything that happens in technology.  Costs, speed to market and paradigms will be changed.”

With virtualization, the underlying hardware can be separated from the management layer of a system, making deployment of services faster.  It can give a company the ability to provision more capability wherever it’s needed within the firm, on the fly, often within minutes.  It also makes system maintenance easier, and makes it possible to install system and network software upgrades universally from a central location.  Another implication of network virtualization would be the ability to relocate applications, “with the goal of doing that without any down time,” according to Mazda Corp. CIO Jim DiMarzio.  As well, network virtualization can help manage periods of peak network traffic by essentially throttling up or back on throughput capacity.

The time and cost savings of virtualization on the server level have been proven repeatedly.  We’ve seen it within our own firm, as have many of our customers.  The virtualization of the network itself is simply the next logical step in the progression of increasing efficiency in computing resources.

But wait… there’s more (of course)!  In our next post we’ll take a look beyond cloud computing, at what some are calling computing’s future: “Fog Computing”.  Stay tuned…

 

 

And make no mistake: Taking advantage of speed, ease of use and innovation improvements like network virtualization will always win the business case.

 

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As promised in an earlier post, here’s one more set of tips about the topic of virtualization – which we’ve advised and recommended in several previous posts.  In this post, we replay what the folks at Focus Research consider to be key questions that may best be answered by virtualizing your server.  For our simple explanation of what virtualization is and why it matters to your company’s data center, go here.  To see Focus Research’s original article on the topic, you can go here.

1. Do you need to reduce the amount your organization spends on maintaining your data center?  Virtualization can reduce operating costs and admin expenses.

2. Do you need to contain server sprawl?  You can combine aps on virtual servers.  (We’ve found a reduction of 9 or 10 servers down to two.)

3. Do you need to increase system utilization?  Rates are often increased by as much as 80%.

4. Do you need a better disaster recovery plan?  You can create duplicate virtual environments as well as create backups.

5. Do you need to increase data availability?  Aps and storage are frequently improved when virtualized, and you can recover data more quickly.

6. Do you need systems that are flexible and scalable?  Virtualized servers allow this with literally just a few mouse clicks.

7. Do you need to quickly set up and tear down test and developmental environments?  Virtualization allows for rapid server provisioning and snapshots of previous environments.

8. Do you need to make it easier to update and manage user applications?  You can push out software and OS updates from a central server to virtual desktops.

9. Do you need to improve security?  You can isolate aps and give them very granular access rights.

10. Do you need to make resources available across the enterprise, regardless of location?  You can pool computing and storage resources that are separate from their physical location and let enterprise users access them.

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In our previous post, we defined virtualization – essentially, the act of allowing one computer to act as several – and then started our list with the first 5 of Focus Research’s conclusions regarding the top 10 things to know about virtualization.  Today, we conclude our list with the other 5 key advantages to this hot new server technology, being employed in companies small and large across the business landscape.

6. Virtualization complicates application licensing: Not all software vendors have come to agreement on how to price their offerings on a virtualized platform.  Some do it by the image, while others use a per-processor or per-server basis.  Check your vendors’ licensing schemes before presuming to run hundreds of instances of a common application across the enterprise.

7. Virtualization costs vary: Just what it says… some vendors price by “the socket” or by the number of processors per server.  Microsoft and VMWare are two virtualization standard-bearers who offer free “hypervisors.”

8. Virtualization needs – and can help to improve – management: You’re introducing a new layer of software between the hardware and the operating system, creating new objects that must be managed.  When managed well however, virtualization can “ease, speed and lower the costs and complexities” of IT management.

9. Virtualization has many sources: There are many vendors, many offerings, many products, and also many open-source projects.  Do your homework.

10. Virtualization is not a panacea: Some applications (web servers, for example) make more sense than others (print servers, for example) to virtualize.  Still, odds are that your IT department’s needs will be better served – as will your bottom line – by the benefits of virtualization, and the corresponding reduction in ‘server sprawl’  right now. 

Focus Research’s complete report is an extensive and well-informed white paper running to 18 pages.  Additional sections not discussed here cover the history of virtualization and a description of essential server virtualization features.  Their full paper can be accessed here.  We highly recommend it.

Despite skipping over many parts of their report, we will report on one final aspect of their research in a future post coming soon.  That will be Focus Research’s “Needs Checklist: 10 Signs Your Data Center Needs Virtualization.”  Watch for it in an upcoming (June) blog post here.

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While much of the IT industry is abuzz about the idea of ‘cloud computing’ (applications and storage served up over the Internet from large server farms at the likes of Amazon and Microsoft), many industry experts see it in the near-term not as a Year of the Cloud, but maybe, eventually, gradually the Decade of the Cloud.

Concerns about security, up-time, availability, escalating costs and other fears, both real and imagined, make many IT and business managers justifiably wary of a pure-cloud environment.  Some applications may be suitable for hosting there, they argue, but many are not — at least not today.

But a technology that is here and real today, and highly instrumental in saving firms money, is an ‘internal cloud.’  Here we’re talking of course about virtualization.

Virtualization uses software to divide a physical server into multiple “virtual” servers.  Essentially, computers as RAM.  Each virtual server runs as an independent computer with its own applications and even operating system.  It’s like getting two, or three or four servers for the price of one, more or less. 

Larger firms can cut hardware and energy costs significantly with virtualization.  Even smaller firms can use it to maintain costs even as they enhance IT functionality and/or improve revenues, thus improving the bottom line.

And of course, with virtualization there’s less to break (and fix).  Using software from companies like VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V technology enables companies to safeguard against hardware and operating failures while extending the functionality of each individual PC server in a company.  The cost savings can be substantial.  One company cited in the latest Fortune Small Business magazine realized a 70% cost saving compared to alternative solutions.  We’re in the process of consolidating servers at our own firm, and expect to consolidate the functionality of two or three servers into one.

So next time you hear the word ‘cloud’ think local, and internal, and look into virtualization if you haven’t already.  (We can connect you with folks who can help.)

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