Opinion: How virtualisation can help businesses

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Opinion: How virtualisation can help businesses

Business is dynamic, and IT needs to match. With this in mind, IT virtualisation has re-emerged as one of the most effective ways for IT departments to make their operations more dynamic, enabling them to quickly respond to business needs and reduce costs.

Far from being new, the concept of virtualisation has been around for many years - for example, it was present way back in the mainframe days when companies wanted to get more utilisation out of an expensive resource. The concept has come back to the forefront now for essentially the same reasons as before – we have a lot of spare processing cycles in current multi-core hardware that can be used more efficiently.

Virtualisation at all levels is about state separation – separating one computing resource from being bound to another. With machine virtualisation, for example, it’s about separating the operating system (OS) from being installed onto a specific piece of hardware. With application virtualisation, it’s about separating the application from installing its configurations and the user’s preferences into a specific instance of the OS.

The concept of state separation is important because it means these computing resources are now dynamic – they can be moved around with minimal installation, configuration or testing. This notion of dynamic resources is a key piece of an on-demand computing strategy since, by virtualising operating systems and applications, they become a service that can be turned on and provisioned in real time.

Customers are turning towards virtualisation to better manage IT complexity, increase agility and reduce costs through increased hardware utilisation as they progress toward the goal of self-managed dynamic systems.

Graham Gardner, a technical specialist in virtualisation and server management, says that there are many benefits in virtualising part or all of an IT environment. “As the technology continues to advance and become more affordable, more organisations will implement virtualisation as part of their overall IT operations strategy to reduce IT costs.

“By increasing the number of applications that can run on a single piece of hardware, the overall cost per server is greatly reduced. A single physical server can now run multiple virtual servers, achieving more efficient use of high cost server assets.

"The net result is reduced operational costs and smaller physical computing space requirements. As an added benefit of this greatly reduced footprint, the amount of power needed to run and maintain a server farm is lowered. Virtualisation is therefore not only good for organisations looking to reduce their total IT spend but it is also good for our planet.”

Virtualisation functionality and resource management is something that should be built into the operating system. Machine virtualisation, which allows greater isolation and is ideal for server side services and applications, will be a key

Virtualisation poses many opportunities from the creation of software packages which are ready to go, to creating a platform that supports many different operating systems. This will deliver increased value to users as they’ll be able to consolidate servers and dynamically manage processes - all of which contributes to reducing costs in running and managing server infrastructures.

Furthermore, virtualisation will help accelerate a move towards a services-orientated model by enabling all offerings – from the OS to applications – to be portable and therefore, able to run on any computer in real time as a service without the need for installing or testing.

In conclusion, there is huge potential for virtualisation technology as organisations realise the potential of lower operational costs, increased availability and IT responsiveness. As penetration of the technology increases, we will see the virtualisation of specific roles such as development and testing, and virtualisation moving towards their mainstream infrastructure.

Martin Gregory, Director Server & Tools, Microsoft Australia
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