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Desktop & Server Virtualization

Technology Computer & Electronics Knowledge & InformationVirtualization is currently a common trend not only for businesses but also for personal use. The concept seems complex yet its wide variation of features and benefits make it a very attractive alternative for a lot of users. It also opens a wide range of opportunities for developers to explore. However, certain considerations must be made before putting this advanced technology in to everyday use.

In an IT environment, Virtualization essentially refers to the isolation of one computing resource from others. By separating the different layers in the logic stack, you enable greater flexibility and simplified change management. This means that you no longer need to configure each element for them to all work together. An operating system and application are packaged together to form a virtual machine, which is then hosted on a physical server running a host operating system or what is called a Hypervisor. This is a thin layer of software that provides the basic interface with the hardware. The most important concept to understand is that this virtual machine (OS + Applications) is operating independent of the OS on the physical server. This enables multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical server, while providing the isolation and security as if they were each on their own discrete hardware.

Historical Background

The concept of system virtualization dates back in 1964 when IBM's Cambridge Scientific Center developed CP-40, the first version of CP/CMS. It went into production use in January 1967. From its inception, CP-40 was intended to implement full virtualization. It went into production use in January 1967. Experience on the CP-40 project provided input to the development of the IBM System/360-67, announced in 1965 along with its ill-starred operating system, TSS/360. CP-40 was re-implemented for the S/360-67 as CP-67, and by April 1967, both versions were in daily production use.

In 1972, IBM changed direction, announcing that the option would be made available on all S/370 models, and also announcing several virtual storage operating systems, including VM/370. By the mid-1970s, CP/CMS, VM, and the maverick VP/CSS were running on a numerous large IBM mainframes. By the late 80s, there were reported to be more VM licenses than MVS licenses. But it was only on February 8, 1999 when VMware introduced the first x86 virtualization product. Virtual Platform, based on earlier research by its founders at Stanford University.

In 2005, VMWare decided to provide high quality virtualization technology to everyone for free by omitting the ability to create virtual machines and did not distribute the acceleration tools that come with VMWare workstation. This paved way for the boom in virtualization in the following year as a new level of playing field in Application Virtualization and Application Streaming.

Virtualization Technologies

A wide variety of virtualization technology have been conceptualized, developed and improved since 2006. This is the result of the increasing system needs gathered from different corporate entities and even individual users. An end-to-end virtualization strategy can profoundly impact nearly every aspect of the IT infrastructure management lifecycle. This allows the user to drive greater efficiencies, flexibility and cost-effectiveness throughout the system.

  • Desktop Virtualization
    This allows utility or dynamic computing; testing and development; and security.
  • Server Virtualization
    This allows server consolidation; business continuity and disaster recovery; lower TCO with higher ROI; utility and dynamic computing; testing and development; and security.
  • Network Virtualization
    This allows lower TCO with higher ROI; utility and dynamic computing; and security.
  • Application Virtualization
    This allows server consolidation; application and desktop deployment; business continuity and disaster recovery; lower TCO with higher ROI; utility and dynamic computing; and testing and development.
  • Storage Virtualization
    This allows business continuity and disaster recovery; lower TCO with higher ROI; utility and dynamic computing; and testing and development; and security.
  • Application Virtualization
    This allows server consolidation; application and desktop deployment; business continuity and disaster recovery; lower TCO with higher ROI; utility and dynamic computing; and testing and development.
  • Presentation Virtualization
    This allows application and desktop deployment; business continuity and disaster recovery; utility and dynamic computing; and security.
  • Management Virtualization
    This allows server consolidation; centralized policy-based management; business continuity and disaster recovery; lower TCO with higher ROI; utility and dynamic computing; testing and development; and security.

Real Companies with Real Issues

Several companies have opted to adopt virtualization to allow them to address issues on cost, efficiency and productivity. Each has seen significant improvements and has promoted one of their best practices.

TELUS is one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, with more than CDN$7 billion of annual revenue, 4.8 million network access lines, and 3.6 million wireless subscribers. With 2,500 employees, the company wanted to decrease the cost of web hosting for its customers and to increase the flexibility and control that customers have over their hosted solutions.  Virtualization allowed it to consolidate the customer hardware servers and increase administrator productivity. It was able to deploy servers 10 times faster; restart servers 20% faster; cut costs by 30%; reduce troubleshooting time by 50%; and secure access to virtual servers.

ACCENTURE is a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company with 133,000 employees in 48 countries and annual revenues of U.S. $15.55 billion for the 2005 fiscal year. The team handling one of the major projects needed a new test environment with four application servers and five client environments including Red Hat Linux and numerous versions of the Windows operating system.  By building virtual machines, the team met its deadline one week ahead of schedule. Virtual machines now play a key role in the lab, as does Microsoft Operations Manager. It reduced total cost of ownership; accelerated environment set-up; streamlined system administration; improved IT responsiveness; and enabled more robust testing.

SWEEDISH MEDICAL CENTER, formed in 1910, is one of the largest, most comprehensive nonprofit health providers in the Pacific Northwest. Based in Seattle, Washington, it has three hospital campuses and multiple specialty and primary care clinics, as well home care services. Its doctors and nurses must be enabled to have their applications; and data roaming with them from device to device; efficiently migrate over 400 applications to XP and deploy a new clinical application; and eliminate regression testing.  Implementing and delivering applications virtually allowed it to cut deployment time from 2 to 3 months to 3 days; reduce PC replacement time from 8 hours to just a few minutes; save $1M in deployment and support-related activities; enable universal roaming; and improved license tracking.

Benefits

Several case studies present evidence of getting positive gains from virtualization. An infrastructure built with well-managed virtualization will result in lower costs, higher service levels, and greater agility. All these have been realized from the following specific benefits:

  • Server consolidation
    It puts together multiple functions onto a single hardware platform allowing you to maintain just one application or server with less hardware for lower equipment costs; less electrical service power consumption and cooling; and less physical space requirement.
  • Maximized uptime
    It organizes workloads in order to prevent one application from impacting the performance of another, or causing a system crash.
  • Robust disaster recovery
    It has an instant fail-over plan that provides business continuity throughout disruptive events; automated back-up and replication of files; and rapid movement of servers, desktops, and applications.
  • System Compatibility
    It nearly eliminates application-to-application conflicts; reduces the amount of regression testing that is required prior to deployment and prevents most compatibility problems.
  • Supports Legacy Applications
    It allows applications written on older operating platforms to be supported in a current operating system without software code revisions.
  • Efficient Server Maintenance
    It allows flexibility of shifting workloads between physical servers with minimal disturbance. It also enables scheduled server maintenance to be performed without service disruption.
  • Streamlined Provisions
    Adding workload resources can be accelerated and decoupled from a hardware acquisition process.
  • User-Friendly Usage
    It reduces the system’s complexity and streamlines the changes made to the overall infrastructure.

F. R.
Technology Writer

Tags:  Server Virutalization, Virtual Server, Virtual Application, Virtual Desktop, Desktop Virtualization

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