Virtualization 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.