Once upon a time, virtualization was primarily a big business thing. Organizations in the enterprise market were all over it, while those in the small to midsize bracket were reluctant to adopt for reasons ranging from fears of limited resources to simply not knowing enough about this new technology. Oh how times have changed.
A VMware blog post from earlier this year highlights some of the key findings in Spiceworks’ State of SMB IT Report. The research effort took a look at SMB IT adoption in a number of areas, including virtual computing. According to the report, virtualization adoption among small to medium-sized businesses has increased every year since 2010 and is on pace to see its biggest growth yet in 2013.
The proof is in the pudding. Virtualization offers irresistible benefits to large and small businesses alike. But what about organizations that have less than ten servers in their infrastructure? Can they get in on the action? Absolutely. Even with smaller deployments it is possible to benefit by consolidating your infrastructure in a way that allows you to do more with less, and even save money by cutting back spending on server hardware and IT overhead.
Thanks to desktop virtualization, even organizations limited to one or two servers have a lot to gain. In addition to providing IT personnel and end-users with flexible access to desktop environments, this variation reduces management costs while improving security and the ability to meet regulatory compliance. These same companies with a low number of physical machines can also benefit from virtualizing their storage media, which greaty simplifies the process of maintaining diverse storage environments.
If we’re talking technically, and we do that from time to time, this handy IT concept is capable of comfortably suiting businesses of any size. But I will not kid you when I say that smaller deployments can be a tad bit tricky. If you’re working with ten servers or less, don’t dare virtualize your infrastructure without keeping these critical points in mind:
Identify your objectives. What do you want to accomplish with your virtual infrastructure? Are you trying to consolidate your equipment and reduce the cost of hardware? Enable faster provisioning? Improve the disaster recovery process? Once you have those goals lined up, identify your resources as they will determine just how attainable those goals are.
Get your team involved. Whether you’re an IT administrator, CEO, or the owner of the friggin’ company, don’t try to implement this complex technology without the aid and input of your team. Even in small organizations, the involvement of IT users and key stakeholders can go a long way in determining the requirements and concerns that should be addressed before deployment.
Be real about management challenges. Many small businesses are limited in IT experts, especially the genuine virtualization virtuosos needed to keep this type of monster contained. Understand that any new technology comes with a unique set of challenges and make sure your staff is up for the task.
Think business continuity. While server consolidation and cost savings may be your main goals, you should never sell virtualization short in the disaster recovery department. This versatile technology can support business continuity by allowing you to migrate virtual servers between host machines during scheduled maintenance and streamline critical backup processes amid a serious IT crisis. Like all backup procedures, you want to test your virtual infrastructure to make sure it is truly effective at reducing downtime.
I’ve heard experts claiming that the sweet spot for effective virtual server implementation ranges from 50 to 150 host machines. Numbers are merely that. Certainly nothing you should be intimidated by. With a solid game plan that accounts for your goals, resources, and any challenges that might get in the way, you can thrive with 10 or even just a couple of physical servers at your disposal.
Suppose you’re ready for virtualization, which hypervisor do you use? Check out our take on VMware vs. Hyper V to get started.