There are a number of good reasons why companies should virtualise their IT infrastructure – super fast disaster recovery, lower hardware acquisition costs, better hardware expenditure and reduced energy consumption to name but a few.
For each scenario, there are a number of provisos that must first be met.
For the best shot at success with virtualisation, companies need to plan thoroughly before they implement.
Starship Systems, a local company which specialises in the supply, implementation and support of virtualisation technologies, offers these tips for virtualisation success:
Virtualisation as a disaster recovery plan for your organisation
Disaster recovery is a key priority for any organisation that has grown in size and needs a contingency plan for its operations in the future. After all, it is essential for a company to be able to weather crises like hardware failure, equipment theft, and even disasters like fires or floods.
The good news is that disaster recovery equipment does not have to be as extensive as your existing environment. With virtualisation technology, a single server rack with enough storage and server power built in should serve you well.
For virtualisation to assist in more advanced disaster recovery procedures, you must:
* Have a dedicated disaster recovery server in place which is pre-configured and can be powered as soon as it is needed.
* Equip both your production and disaster recovery servers with virtualisation technology.
* Install a centralised storage unit to store your virtual disks. It is more time and resource-effective to back up a virtual machine that can be powered within minutes than it is to document the procedures needed to setup from scratch.
* Locate your disaster recovery equipment at an offsite facility.
* Have a secure data connection between your main site and your disaster recovery site.
* Ensure that your data communications between your main site and disaster recovery site is encrypted. Industrial espionage is a reality of our times.
* Run timely incremental backups from your main site to your disaster recovery site.
Virtualisation for high availability
There are a number of key systems which can bring business to a standstill when they’re not operational. All companies must consider the potential impact of ordinary problems on the running of these systems, and what impact any downtime will have on the business. Virtualisation can ensure high availability of systems.
The following must be in place for virtualisation to be used for high availability:
* The high availability server must be virtualised with all data stored centrally. It is possible to have a virtual counterpart for a bare metal server as long as you can centralise your data in a NAS/SAN environment.
* If your data is centralised to a storage unit and not located on a local machine, it must be accessible even in the case of a total server failure.
* You should have a running backup of your storage unit (NAS/SAN) to a secondary. This is so that you have fast access to your data and won’t have to waste time on restore action. Remember that back ups on tape are just that: back ups. They still need to be restored.
* Spare capacity in the form of an idle server or capacity left on your other virtual hosts to carry the load in the event of a failure.
* Smart-enough-software to (A) notify you of a critical failure, or (B) automatically perform the restart of the server on different hardware.
More bang for your buck in the server room
During economic downturn companies tend to allocate a small budget for key purchases or they don’t spend money at all. Virtualisation technology, through the optimisation of existing resources, helps companies get more for their limited IT spend and can assist them in weathering the economic storm.
Companies can get better bang for their buck in the server room with the following:
* One or two high-end virtualised servers to perform the task of many – it is a wiser use of capital to invest in less higher-end hardware that can do the job of eight servers rather than purchasing eight lower-end servers.
* Centralised storage with enough capacity to meet storage needs for a significant period of time.
* Buying individual hard drives for stand alone servers is not ideal in today's IT environment.
* Having your storage centralised and manageable ensures on-the-fly allocation of disk space to whichever server requires it without upsetting server configurations.
* Planning ahead for expansion in storage and processing capacity.
Companies are under increasing pressure to adopt green practices. Virtualisation technology can help companies reduce their carbon footprint by slashing power consumption and reducing heating and cooling costs in the server room.
* There are more servers running on less hardware.
* Better expenditure of hardware means that you don’t have a large percentage of CPU, RAM and disks standing idle, which is wasteful of electricity.
* With virtual servers and Network Attached Storage (NAS/SAN), you can plan for expansion without requiring additional, electricity-guzzling hardware.
More ways to go green include:
* Switch to green switches, they widely-acknowledged for using 60% less power than old switches.
* Use LCD monitors where possible, their standby mode uses substantially less power than their CRT brothers.
* Only have the necessary server powered on. Backup or disaster recovery servers do not need to be powered continuously.
* Switch off your server room lights when no one is there.