Virtualization has proven to be one of the most useful computing technologies to come around in a long time. Organizations of all sizes are using it to consolidate everything from applications to entire networks. However, server consolidation is easily its most widely used application, which brings us to the mighty virtual machine (VM).
Virtual machines take IT coolness to an all new level. By allowing you to run several ghost operating systems within a single piece of physical hardware, these virtualized environments give companies the ability to improve the efficiency of their infrastructure from a variety of angles. Check out some of the ways organizations are putting virtual machines to use.
Run Multiple Operating Systems: Are you a Windows administrator who wants to see what Linux is all about? Virtual machines give you the power to do just that. In fact, you can run Windows, Mac OS X, and various Linux distributions all on the same physical machine.
Software Development and Testing: Savvy developers know all about the perks of VMs. After all, they often depend on these environments to develop and test desktop software, web applications and mobile apps. Virtual machines help developers preserve physical resources, improve performance, and incorporate new development tools all without negatively affecting the host machine.
Clone Legacy Systems: Many organizations still have an old legacy server they just can’t afford to get rid of despite all the advancements in computer hardware. Virtual technology not only allows you to keep that granddaddy box around, it gives you the ability to clones its contents. For instance, by performing a physical-to-virtual conversion (P2V), you can copy the files and applications from the legacy system onto a virtual machine running within another, more functional physical server.
System Backup: Ready to upgrade from Windows 7 Professional to Windows 8 Enterprise? You can use a VM to backup Windows 7 before making the move. That way, if something goes wrong during the migration, you can run a copy of the old system in a virtual environment until the upgrade problem is resolved.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: A VM is typically created by an operating system image or file and kept in a storage facility such as a storage area network. That file can be loaded onto any physical server running virtual software. As a result, administrators can recover mission-critical data and applications in the event of hardware failure, or even a disaster at the data center.
VM Ups and Downs
Virtual machines have many advantages over their physical brethren. By dramatically reducing the amount of hardware required in the office or data center, businesses can spare resources, storage space, and power consumption. Combine aforementioned benefits such as simplified system migration, backup and recovery with a fast deployment, and you have a solution with the ability to produce mega savings in the area of operational expenses.
While virtual machines bring a bucket full of goodies to the table, they are also, in some ways, inferior to physical machines. The biggest disadvantage lies in the shared environment these virtual containers reside in. Even though you can create multiple VMs within a single physical server, that machine only has so many physical resources. The more virtual environments you run, the greater the strain on disk space, memory and CPU, which could result in both performance and availability issues.
Taming the Virtual Beast
Virtual machines also present challenges from a management standpoint. Sure, you’ve got your virtual machine managers, which are designed to simplify the creation, configuration, and provisioning of VMs, but the task of keeping up with additional files and applications, all while managing the physical resources of the host machine can be strenuous for the most seasoned of system administrators. Then there is the issue of backing up your virtual machines, which introduces all new complexities.
Although VMs can play an integral role in backup strategies, these machines themselves should be regularly backed up. Why? Because if the physical host goes down, it’s taking all those virtual environments with it. And while having the luxury to easily create and migrate virtual servers is peachy from a flexibility standpoint, data protection can be compromised in the process. For these reasons, having a solution that lets you restore VMs and their application data has become a critical need.
Products like ShadowProject Virtual are indispensable tools for system administrators. This particular tool gives you the ability to backup your entire virtual system — from OS and applications to individual services and bits of data. When disaster strikes, you can restore your system to any point in time you desire and quickly recover to different brands of hardware, VM managers or even the cloud.
Tech Target examines the speed challenges associated with backup and recovery in organizations dealing with exponential data growth. Such challenges depend on a variety of specific factors, but when equipped with a fast and efficient virtual backup tool, you have a true disaster recovery solution at your disposal.
Virtualization is rapidly changing the face of system deployment, application development and IT planning in general. Organizations across multiple sectors are leveraging it to trim operating costs, maximize hardware utilization and improve infrastructure efficiency. Those that are able to capitalize on the benefits while minimizing the risks will be in position to get the most from their virtual server deployments.