Hardware

Can virtualization save you money?


Virtualization is being thrown at us from all directions. All the major vendors are moving into this arena: VMware (an EMC company) is not alone anymore.

Just in case you need a refresher, a virtual machine is simply a fully functioning computer where you can install an operating system of your choice, with network configuration and a full suite of software.

The catch is the operating system is virtual and resides an existing server/computer. These types of configurations allow you to save money, consolidate servers and maximize your utilization.

Since everyone I know who interested in virtualization is talking about these three benefits, let's explore them in greater detail:

Saving Money

If you talk to any CTO in any company and tell him or her you can save them "X" number of dollars by complimenting their network infrastructure with virtualization, you will have an willing audience.

How you say? Here's a good example: You just recently purchased five licenses of Windows 2003 for five servers about to implemented into your infrastructure. This would roughly cost you $10K-to-$15K in licensing fees.

What if I told you I could give you the same infrastructure for $2K-to-$5K? How? By simply buying one license of Windows Server 2003 R2, you get up to four virtual instances free-of-charge. Simply download any virtualization software you desire and install four more virtual operating systems for free.

Consolidating Servers

Hosting facilities and corporate server rooms are busting at the seams. It seems every vendor has some unique software that requires a stand-alone server. In the dot-com era this might have worked, but today we are faced with increasing energy costs to power these money-sucking machines.

Server rooms are the energy vampires of technology's new millennium. How can we face this increasing cost head on? Virtualization.

You could have a software and server inventory done and see how many servers are simply just running one application-maybe even a legacy application. By taking advantage of virtualization, you could easily consolidate 20 servers down to five.

Maximize Utilization

Maximizing utilization of servers and consolidation of servers seem to go hand-in-hand. You cannot do one without the other. When you consolidate servers, you maximize utilization.

As a consultant working deep in the trenches, I can't tell you how many times I've seen a huge Quad processor server running a miniscule app and the utilization of the server is not even registering.

That same box, if utilized to its potential, could host three-to-five virtual instances. It is not uncommon these days to gather up all the legacy applications you are still running and place them on one server with several virtual instances.

By properly utilizing your servers with virtualization, you will reduce costs and consolidate servers in your environment.

So the next time your IT cronies are hanging out by the water cooler and they start talking about virtualization, what they are really discussing is reduced costs, consolidated servers, and maximized infrastructure.

It just sounds like one word.

10 comments
stress junkie
stress junkie

What is all this talk about having to have a separate instance of the operating system for each application? I suppose you mean "... in a Windows environment." but as weak as Windows is at multitasking it can still run more than one application per box without using virtual machines. The last time that this issue came up here at TR I listed all of the reasons that I do not believe in virtual software. The only sensible response that I got to that post was a claim that virtual machines can migrate between real hardware without any down time. This creates fault tolerance. I haven't researched it so I don't know if it is true. http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=85&threadID=201876&messageID=2106621 I've been around the block a few times and I've seen many organizations. Very few have a lot of legacy applications that need their own special environment. Very few have ANY legacy applications that need their own special environment. So that claim to consolidating several legacy applications on one box doesn't apply to very many situations. If you have this kind of situation then fine, use virtual machines. If you think you have a situation that could benefit from virtual machines on one piece of hardware I think that you could accomplish your consolidation without resorting to virtual machines. The only question is the combined load. If your SQL server is idle often enough to add printer server or DNS server function to it you don't need to create a virtual machine for each function. I think people are inventing phony requirements in order to justify deploying virtual machine software. If you want to try using a virtual machine environment you don't have to spend a lot of money. You can test drive Xen virtual environment software for free. It comes with SuSE Linux, even the free version. You can set up all of the Windows virtual environments that you want, or you can mix and match different operating systems.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

Between having to buy beefier hardware, acquiring the necessary licenses, etc the savings aren't nearly as great as some believe. Are there savings? Maybe. As big as the media seems to think? No. Virtualization in my organization has yet to accomplish anything for us except for testing and evaluation.

bonkyhead
bonkyhead

It's true - only Enterprise 2003 offers the multi-license option. At a cost of $2800 for a 25 user CAL package, $600 for each 20 CALs after that (c'mon you know you need 'em), and $7000 (or more) for a beefy server to run those five servers upon you're up near $12K. Cheaper, yes. Big savings? No. But it's still a pretty cool way to go.

neal.bowman
neal.bowman

The 4 free licenses only come with the Enterprise Edition of the Server OS. You only get one free with Standard.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

But I can think of at least 3 applications we have that for either load considerations or customized apps we need them on their own server, own OS, etc. I agree with the legacy part but custom apps many times either do need their own OS and box and/or you invaldate their support if you don't follow their recommendations. I agree that this shouldn't be the case, but reality often speaks otherwise. And I'm not a fan of those 3 apps but I have to work with what I've been given.

Jaqui
Jaqui

that is my biggest issue with using virtualisation. if you are going to run everything on one set of hardware, get big iron, known for reliability. use a pc for a single set of hardware to run every mission critical service? only if you are completely insane. using it for testing or evaluation, works. but for production systems? they would have to be eating stupid pills by the gross lot to make that call.

christopher
christopher

imagine 1) power consumption and cooling for multiple server vs just one server 2) the amount of rack to house multiple server vs one

john.brook
john.brook

VM resource pools instaed of MS clustering. Not as complex or flaky either.

christopher
christopher

before venturing into virtualisation, you need to list your priority. you need to identify all your mission critical application from those not so important ones. grouping all the mission critical application on a single hardware is definitely suicidal and will immediately disrupt the operation of your organisation during a failure. thus you might want to consider consolidating all your secondary server on a single virtual machine instead.

Jaqui
Jaqui

my point, only use virtualisation where it is guaranteed not to be a problem, or to be a benefit. It isn't the right solution for every organisation. All my software I have running is mission critical, if it's not, I only run it when needed. Therefore virtualisation isn't a solution I need.

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