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There is much talk on the benefits of cloud computing for both enterprise and consumer use. However, among the fundamentals of this technology is virtualization, which enables the use of a single or horizontally-scaled computing resource in order to run sever instances in a sandboxed environment.
Virtualization basically means the abstraction of computer hardware to make it act as if it were many distinct machines. Virtualization combines hardware and software that make it possible for several operating system instances to be run simultaneously on the same physical platform. The phrase “highly available” in information technology, on the other hand, refers to the state of being continuously operational as measured relative to a “never failing” or “100% operational” benchmark.
Hence, a highly available virtualized platform means a virtually continuously operational virtualized platform wherein multiple operating systems, individually running their respective virtual machines, are sharing hardware resources.
A Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) acts as the control and translation system that links the hardware and virtual machines. VMM’s role in virtualization continues to evolve. From software-based methods of binary translation and paravirtualization, new systems like Intel’s Virtual technology are able to reduce overhead of VMM operations and enhance speed and functions. VMM complexity is reduced while reliability and security are enhanced using new technologies.
Those who are new to concept of highly available virtualization can look into VMware and Hyper-V as established demonstrations of the technology. VMware’s VMware HA (High Availability) solution is a utility that takes away the necessity for dedicated standby hardware and software in a virtual environment. Hyper-V, previously known as Windows Server Virtualization, is a native hypervisor that can create and manage virtual machines.
All of these create advantages that are very useful to businesses, with the following being the most notable of these business benefits.
Operating Cost Reduction
Operating cost reduction is a major benefit of a virtualized platform. Since virtualization removes the need to run multiple physical servers and the maintenance costs associated with them, businesses can expect to considerably lower operating costs. The key here is the reduction of the resources needed in running servers. Server consolidation (discussed in the next item), in particular, creates the advantage of reducing power consumption and the space and maintenance needed for server hardware. Virtualization technology continues to improve to provide more cost saving and efficiency benefits. Moreover, because of “high availability” technologies, businesses are able to mitigate opportunity costs and other risks involved in downtimes or server disruptions.
Virtualization results in advantageous virtual to physical machine consolidation, wherein several server applications can be run on just one machine. Sans virtualization, one server application would require one physical computer to provide the required unique operating system and technical specification environments. Virtualization optimizes server utilization and the ability to use legacy software and old OS configurations, even with new applications running in the virtual machines that have updated platforms.
Enhanced System Reliability and Security
Businesses definitely benefit from improvements in system reliability and security, something that a highly available virtualized platform is able to provide. Virtualization helps address the problems of system crashes caused by software-induced memory corruption (particularly those related to device drivers). It ensures the improved isolation of I/O resources, creating the benefits of greater security, reliability, and availability.
Mobility and Flexibility through Virtual Desktops
Virtualization greatly supplements cloud computing or everywhere-access to applications for businesses as it offers the advantage of multinational flexibility through virtual desktops that enable the seamless transition between different operating systems. One example that can apply to even a consumer setting is Parallels Desktop for Mac, which allows both OS X and Windows to run on a Mac, with “near-native performance.” Of course, not all businesses will be able to benefit from this advantage, since not all will have the need to use more than one operating system for business transactions. Nevertheless, this is an advantage worth mentioning especially for businesses involved in handling of data handling and various online services that heavily rely on highly available web servers.
Load Balancing and Disaster Recovery
Virtualization also offers the potential for dynamic load balancing, wherein workload is distributed to underutilized servers to ease burden on overused ones, thereby ensuring efficient server resource utilization. This plays a major role in enabling high availability. This comes in various implementations, such as DNS-based approach and installing an appliance. In this regard, load balancing through a cloud-based approach or a platform-as-a-service is among the more flexible means, regardless of the size of implementation.
In this regard, disaster recovery is made possible in virtualized platforms as virtualization technology enables the creation of a virtual image on a machine to be quickly re-imaged on another server in cases of machine failures. Being highly available while ensuring efficient server operation certainly benefits businesses that make use mission critical applications.
Virtualization is a technology that is expected to become more widely adopted by businesses, institutions, and organizations. The advantages it offers are certainly worth pursuing. From the server operation cost reduction to network efficiency and higher availability, there’s just no reason why businesses should refuse using it.
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