A Contributed Article by Tom Powledge, vice president of product delivery, SMB and Cloud for Symantec
To some small and medium-sized businesses today,
virtualization may seem somewhat mysterious. It's an extremely popular topic in
IT today, and SMBs might see other businesses enjoying its benefits. But they
are unsure of exactly how it works and how to effectively leverage it to improve
their own business.
In order to understand what gains can be made through
embracing virtualization, it's important to understand what it is. Servers are
the most common candidates for virtualization, which entails dividing physical
machines into separate "virtual" servers that each exists independently from
the others - while residing on the same physical machine, with discrete
operating platforms and applications. This is made possible through
hypervisors, or virtualization management software. Desktops can also be
virtualized, delivering applications to end users from a centrally managed location.
It's an ideal technology to improve SMB agility.
One of the most important benefits of virtualization is the
centralized control it provides, reducing operational expenses. This allows
administrators to easily apply patches and system updates to virtualized
desktops, and virtualized servers can be easily commissioned and
decommissioned, to meet the constantly changing needs of the business. This
also presents an advantage in testing new systems and configurations with
minimal consequences. A simpler physical infrastructure can also free up IT
staff to handle employee needs more efficiently.
Because multiple virtual servers can be run on a single
physical machine, virtualization can also reduce capital expenses by purchasing
less hardware, which allows for higher utilization rates. It also provides a
robust environment to keep data available in case of failures, because the
nature of the virtualized resources makes the production of a backup image
simpler. This keeps downtime to a minimum, which is vital for today's SMBs.
What You Need to Know
Despite the benefits virtualization has to offer, there are
some new challenges that are introduced in a virtualized environment. Because
virtual machines can be so easily commissioned, data may be duplicated
unnecessarily. In addition, monitoring and reporting can be more difficult to
manage in a virtual environment.
Visibility can also be a challenge at the server level,
because of the self-contained nature of the virtualized environment. SMBs need
to employ management solutions, to give complete visibility into the virtual
environment. In addition, the security tools that protected the physical
environment may require adjustment to keep information safe in a virtualized
environment. Ensure that disaster recovery tools can adequately assess system
failures and quickly recover the resources, and establish security processes
such as user authentication when accessing servers.
Steps to Successful
The best way to initiate the virtualization process in your
business is to discuss your situation with a virtualization expert such as an
outside consultant or a Value Added Reseller (VAR). You should discuss the
current state of your IT infrastructure as well as your goals. Once this is
accomplished, you should make a detailed assessment of your current systems to
determine the effects virtualization will have, and decide what processes you
would like to improve.
With this assessment, you can determine what hardware and
software to virtualize. You may want to start small, with less-critical
applications that are not highly resource-intensive. Once you are accustomed to
the initial implementation, you can expand your virtualization initiative.
As part of the virtualization process, be sure to implement
solutions that will back up the virtual environment, as well as disaster
recovery solutions. Without the highest possible uptime, virtualization can't
live up to its full potential as a viable solution. Effective backups also
limit information sprawl, ensuring higher utilization rates and further
improving the cost-efficiency of the deployment.
Like any other technology adopted in the workplace,
virtualization requires intelligent planning to achieve success. By taking
steps to minimize the challenges it poses and make the most of its benefits,
today's SMBs can dispel the mysteries this innovative technology has to offer
and work their own magic, to create a more streamlined, effective business.
To learn more about how to successfully implement
virtualization in an SMB environment, download a Symantec white paper here.