Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why Virtualize Your Infrastructure

More on server virtualization

You've heard only a few of the reasons that virtualization is a hot technology: It saves money, it lowers the number of physical servers, and it is a green. However, there are other reasons to virtualize your infrastructure, especially for those who work with virtual machines as their primary job duty.

1. Common Management Interface

Having all your servers available in a single application is cool, but the ability to control those servers from that single interface is downright arctic. Virtualization offers access to virtual machine (VM) hardware, consoles and storage. Your entire gaggle of systems as readily available as a pocket protector full of trade show pens is almost too good to be true.

If the Virtualization environment is in HA, better still.  If the physical hardware needs to be replace, then the VM can always be "Live Migration" over to the working physical hardware.  Once all the VMs are moved out, they physical faulty hardware can be taken out for repair.  This cause no downtime to the production.

2. ILO Not Required

For the unlucky lot whose hands-on techs don't setup your Integrated Lights Out (ILO) interfaces, virtualization removes that burden for the better. Virtualization allows you to boot a VM from a powered-off state without the need for physical access to the system. The number of saved trips into the data center is worth the most minuscule return on investment from switching to a virtual infrastructure.
3. Easy "Hardware" Changes

Changing hardware and upgrading systems is no trip to the beach. In fact, it's absolutely maddening inside even the most plush data centers where you must kneel, stretch and bend in unnatural ways to break open a case, remove old hardware and install the new pieces. And, after all that fun, your hardware might not work and you have to repeat the process -- possibly multiple times. You can upgrade memory, increase the number of CPUs and add new hard disks to a VM with a few mouse clicks. You won't need any tools, yoga lessons or trips to the chiropractor after upgrading the hardware in a VM.

4. Snapshots

Before you read another line, go and take a snapshot of your favorite physical server. Can't do that, you say? You're correct, you can't. VMs have the unique fortune to have snapshot capability built in. A snapshot is an exact copy of your working VM prior to doing something to it that has the potential to make it not work. Fortunately, should that happen, you can revert to the snapshot and remove the faulty VM.  One of the issues that I've encountered is that having the BOD (Blue screen of Death) when an application or a Security Patch that is not compatible is installed.  Each time I have to keep my fingers cross that nothing happens when being asked to reboot after the installation for it to take effect.  
Since I virtualize it, before an application or Security Patch is to be applied, I'll take a Snapshot and then when after the reboot, the patch or the application doesn't cause any issue, I can just remove the snapshot and the VM will be operating as normal and it's updated.  This has helped me a lot.  I don't need to spend long hours to to backup and to reinstall the OS plus all the stuff from the scratch !! 

5. Prototyping

VMs are the perfect computer-flavored "guinea pigs" that happily promote the concept of a "do over." Using a standard VM, you can prototype an application, database or operating system enhancement without spending hours reimaging a physical system after each unsuccessful attempt.
Especially for the developers that needs to simulate the actual production system, I can always clone it out in a very short time to present to the developers to do their testing.  Once they're done with testing, I can just remove the VM.  If it's physical, then it will take a much longer time as I have to find another same specs hardware , GHOST from the original Hardware and then GHOST it to the new one for the developers to do the testing.  It's very tedious !!
6. Fast System Communications
Host-to-guest and guest-to-guest communications occur without any hops or standard physical hardware restrictions. Private VLANs create system-to-system communications that are secure and fast. Using a private VLAN for a group of VMs means that you can create a multi-tier application with limited outside network exposure and without a lengthy set of ALLOW and DENY network rules.

7. Easy Decommissioning

To decommission a physical system, you must touch the system multiple times: Turn off network ports, wipe the disks, unplug the system, remove the system from the rack and finally dispose of the system. A VM's decommisioning process involves the same general steps but there are no steps made to a data center. And, there are no systems to remove or to return. Removing a VM from inventory takes a few seconds. 

8. Templating / Templates for VM

How many gold disks does it take to support a data center? The answer is, one for every type of new hardware that passes through the magnetically-locked doors. How many Windows Server 2008 R2 VM templates do you require? One. You need one template that contains everything needed for deployment that, incidentally, takes minutes to complete. A template allows to truly create a single master gold disk for your system deployments.

9. Fast Deployment

VMs require no shipping, no installation, no power hookups, no network drops and no SAN cabling. Using templates or staged ISO images, VM deployments take minutes or hours not weeks or months.
In the past, to ask for a new server, it has to go through many approvals and "red tapes".  Once approve, then it takes time for the physical server to come in.

In virtualization, it's just a couple of clicks, and wa la ... the server is provision and can be hand over to the requestor on that particular day itself.

10. Dynamic Capacity

How far in advance would you have to plan to scale-up for a major marketing campaign that requires new physical computing capacity? Virtualization allows you to rapidly respond to changing business conditions. You can scale-up when you need extra capacity and scale back when you don't. Virtualization defines dynamic computing !!

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