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How To Create An IT Virtualization Strategy

How To Create An IT Virtualization Strategy
How To Create An IT Virtualization Strategy
How To Create An IT Virtualization Strategy

Virtualization allows an organization to run multiple servers and operating systems with less hardware than traditional server setups. The setup reduces IT resources needed to operate and improves disaster recovery capabilities. However, implementing a virtualization strategy is a requires careful planning for successful implementation.

Understanding Virtualization

In traditional IT infrastructure, every server is a physical computer in the data center. Each operating system used requires its own server, and specific tasks such as printing or email may each be handled by a specific server. However, the computing load among each machine is not equal, and some computers use few resources while still demanding as much space and resources in the data center.

Through virtualization, a single computer can act as several servers. System resources are divided among each virtual server, making it easier to balance resource needs as traffic fluctuates. Each computer can run multiple operating systems if needed. The net result is fewer physical servers in the data center, reduced utility and cooling load, and lower overall IT operating costs without any loss in data accessibility.

Virtualization works in the other direction, allowing multiple physical devices to act as a single logical device on the network. The most common use is in storage where multiple storage devices are linked together to provide faster access and greater disaster recovery through redundancy.

Analyze Your Company's Needs

Virtualization has a number of advantages over traditional server architecture, but the migration process can be disruptive to the organization. In order to ensure a smooth transition and an efficient use of IT resources, the existing computing environment should be analyzed.

Traffic analysis conducted over long periods gives important information on which servers are used the most, and when the peaks and valleys of network traffic occur. Low-use servers can be combined into a single physical server without straining the processing or storage capabilities of one machine. Servers that tend to peak at different times can be combined to balance the traffic load. Managers determine which physical servers should be kept, possibly with some hardware upgrades, and which should be retired. Critical information can be protected with the improved disaster recovery that comes from virtual storage. Once the physical equipment needs are calculated, the layout of the server room can be designed for maximum cooling opportunities.

Which Services Should Be Virtualized?

Although virtual servers and storage are valuable tools, more is not necessarily better. Combining two busy physical servers into one is only going to strain existing hardware and have the potential to create a heat disaster. Efficient virtualization is more important than simply trying to cram everything onto one physical server.

The strategy should be analyzed to see whether the long-term savings will be worth the short-term costs. In many cases the breakeven point occurs very quickly, in a matter of month or even weeks. However in others, the overall cost savings may not be worth the expenses and service disruption that can go along with a transition to a virtual architecture. Remember to include the value of increased disaster recovery from virtualized storage. The ability to keep operating seamlessly in the event of hard drive failure may be priceless to many organizations.

Implement And Improve

After the plan is created and every detail is worked out, it is time to take the plunge. A well-designed virtualization strategy will have minimal impact on company operations. Taking the time to work out a detailed migration strategy will save the company time in the long run as the transition occurs without complications.

Major migrations may be best handled in stages. Move some physical servers to virtual and evaluate how the changes impact company operations. If all goes well, convert a few more servers and so on. Taking it slowly allows the organization to react to unanticipated problems found in earlier stages to allow later stages to proceed more easily. Virtual storage is often done early in the process, since the conversion process is less intrusive and improved disaster recovery is vital.

After the migration is done, periodically revisit the situation to ensure the existing infrastructure still meets the needs of the company. One advantage of virtualization is as traffic demands grow, more physical equipment can be added to support the virtual infrastructure. Anticipate future changes in traffic to keep the system operating at peak efficiency.

Improvements in data access, IT resource use and disaster recovery make virtualization an obvious choice for large IT operations.