I'll start off this series by pointing out something I find funny every time I write an article on virtualization. Most word processors will mark the word 'virtualization' as misspelled. There is a good reason for this. When the majority of standard dictionaries in use today were developed, there was no such word as virtualization. How do you virtualize something? How do you take a physical object and make it virtual? Is this something like virtual reality? Actually, it is.
In the world of IT, virtualization means taking a physical server and turning into a virtual one. The concept of virtualization is that these 'virtual servers' run on an intermediary software layer which in turn runs on top of the physical server hardware. That intermediate layer then presents virtual server components to be used by server operating systems that will reside on top of the intermediate layer. These virtual components include processors, RAM, NICs, CD-ROM drives,hard drives, USB devices, video cards, sound cards, etc. In the virtualization world, the physical server with the intermediary software layer on it is referred to as the 'host,' while any operating systems installed on top of that virtual layer are called 'guests.'
Virtualization allows IT departments to consolidate several servers onto a single piece of hardware. This is especially useful for small application servers, print servers, web servers and any other server that is not extremely resource and input/output intensive. I must point out, however, that such resource and I/O intensive servers can be virtualized with the right (read expensive) hardware. The true benefit of virtualization comes as old and new servers are provisioned in this virtual environment, and the total number of physical servers needed in the data center is reduced. This also has a positive environmental impact by reducing the amount of hardware, electricity and cooling necessary to keep a data center running. As you can see, virtualization has the potential to reduce costs in many places for IT departments while increasing the efficiency of data center hardware. Virtualization also provides some very nice disaster recovery and high availability options because virtual machines can move between physical machines. There is a lot more to virtualization that this quick introduction will not cover, but be rest assured that I will discuss virtualization in much more detail over the next series of posts. One of the great benefits of being a consultant is implementing virtual infrastructures for companies and watching their reaction as they realize the full potential of a virtual infrastructure. As a teaser for what's to come, I architect all of my clients' virtual infrastructures using 3DV infrastructure. 3DV stands for 3PAR, Dell and VMWare. You can look into each of these companies and get a sneak peek into what I will be covering in this virtualization series. I will also explain why I use 3DV and ways to implement a virtual infrastructure in your organization if you do not have 3PAR or Dell hardware. Until then, good luck!