The Why, What, and How of Virtualization

The Why, What, and How of Virtualization

August 20

In honor of our attendance at this year’s VMworld in San Francisco, we thought we’d have a look at some of our most useful resources for understanding, utilizing, and maximizing the potential of virtualization technologies. Whether you’re a small business owner, a computer enthusiast, or an IT admin, virtualization can benefit nearly everyone.

Why Virtualization?

There are a number of benefits to virtualizing your machines such as cost savings, scalability to support growth, more management and testing capabilities—the list is long. After you’ve read our list of the top five reasons to go virtual, I think you’ll be convinced.

What to Do Before Virtualizing

Virtualization isn’t such a tough concept, but there are definitely things to think about before your start launching VMs left and right. Things like your individual needs, licensing issues, required computing resources, management, and backup are all important to think about as you plan your virtual environment. Check out our list of challenges to virtualization adoption for a more detailed look at all of the above considerations.

Before you move onto the next step, you’ll probably want to decide which pieces of equipment you’d like to virtualize. Things that require lots of RAM and processing power might be best left on their own physical hardware and environments with restricted software licensing are also best kept the way they are—you definitely don’t want to start running into licensing issues. For a few more virtualization no-no’s, have a look at this article on what not to virtualize.

Getting Started with Virtualization

Ok, so now you’re ready to start amping up your virtualization game, but where to start? A lot of people will set up their own virtualization lab to get the fundamentals down. This method is useful for those that haven’t had much experience with virtual technologies, though more advanced users will probably be ready to get started.  You can learn some things on your own by downloading a trial of VMware’s vSphere product and running a few servers in a test lab, just to see how this whole virtualization thing will go down.

Remember, though, that there are a few options available when it comes to virtualization, so as you’re getting started, you’ll want to weigh your options for virtualization software. For many, this comes down to choosing between Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware. We’ve got a great overview of the pros and cons of the virtualization heavy-hitters that will help you pick the best option for your needs.  There are also a number of free virtualization tools that might suit you as well.

Next, you’ll want to think about whether you should use new hardware or old hardware, what type of storage you need, and how you’ll handle backup (we’ll get to this in another section). This brief guide walks you through a few things you’ll want to know as you’re getting started. For the real newbies, here’s a more careful look at getting started.

Setup and testing

By now you ought to have a pretty good idea of how your virtual roll-out will go down. You should know which machines will be virtualized, which hardware they’ll be on, and so forth. You’ve played around with things in your lab, but make sure to also test virtual production machines before they go live. As you no doubt know, testing is essential.

Now, as you’re getting everything set up and testing things out, there are some things you’ll definitely want to avoid doing. This list of common virtualization mistakes will help guide you as you’re getting your virtual environment optimized, tested, and ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

Optimizing Virtualization Resources

Now that you’re running your virtual game, you’re probably got a few machines on one piece of hardware. This saves you money, but only if your machines are productive, which means you need to allocate the appropriate resources to each VM. This quick guide has more detail about setting up VM resources effectively.

Next, have you thought about how you’ll provision storage resources? There’s some debate about thick vs. thin provisioning, though conventional knowledge suggests that thin provisioning is the way to go. However, thin provisioning does have a handful of limitations to think about, so be sure to use the method that fits best for your environment.

While we’re on the subject of storage, have you thought about organizing storage by tiers? Here’s a rundown of some considerations with regard to tiered storage.

Optimizing Backup and Recovery with Virtualization

Flexibility is the key to disaster recovery and virtualization is what makes it happen. You can use virtualization to test backups and make sure they’re recoverable in an emergency, which means you’ll know you can recover a backup lightning quick if you ever need to. You can even virtualize backups from the cloud, which gives you disaster preparedness that covers nearly any scenario.

As a side note, a recent survey found that nearly three quarters of IT pros prefer one solution for both physical and virtual backups. For backup software that covers physical and virtual, learn more about the Recovery-Ability solution. And for more answers to your biggest questions about how virtualization can empower your backup and disaster recovery efforts, check out this interview with StorageCraft Chief Evangelist, Matt Urmston.

Photo credit: Paul Hudson via Wikimedia