Virtualization plays an important role in any computing environment. The invention of virtualization brought radical changes in the computing environment making it easier and more important to economically employ information technology in business operations. Before then the rising cost of administration was threatening to reverse the benefits of computerization. There was heavy underutilization of computer infrastructural resources which caused the information technology departments to operate below their capacity. The main areas of virtualization include server, desktop, and storage virtualization. These systems are geared towards incorporating flexibility, portability, and dynamic resource allocation in computing. Other major benefits of virtualization include cost savings, optimization of space, increased level of automation, provision of support to data centers, consolidation of space, and provision of applications on demand.
Virtualization is the simulation of a computer environment to appear like the actual version of such devices as the server, storage device or a network device (SearchServerVirtualization, 2000). Since its introduction it has gained prominence in three major areas which include desktop, storage, and server virtualization. The purpose of this paper is thus to examine the major advantages of computer virtualization.
Server virtualization is the ability to run multiple operating systems at the same time within a single hardware platform (Yasin, 2009). It has several advantages that come with its implementation in a computing environment. Some of these include:
Cost saving: This platform was one of the first computer virtualization efforts. The driving force behind the idea was to consolidate the server systems. It brings a lot of savings in floor space alongside the related utilities. As a result the cost savings as a result of the system brings enormous savings. On its inception, organizations hurried up to consolidate their office system and to reorganize their data centers (Berniker, 2009). Besides the obvious savings, it had great savings in operational costs and through savings in energy and savings in capital outlays. In addition, many of the idle physical servers were retired leading to enormous savings in hardware costs (Muehlberger, 2005).
Intelligent Resource Allocation: One of the major benefits of the virtue environment is that it is flexible and provides a dynamic platform for rapidly growing and unexpected changes in demand for its resources. One need not keep on adding computer hard ware as the hard ware resources are optimized by the virtual server. Due to the flexibility to changes in technology, they are much more convenient and can be modified to suite the needs of the user at minimal cost. The flexibility in allocation of resources makes it one of the most important tools in any computing environment.
Increased level of automation: with an increasing shift towards computerization of tasks, the work of system administrators is becoming enormous in working environments. The increase in workload threatens the operational efficiency of many firms thereby necessitating recruitment of additional administrators. This increases the operational cost of a business hence the need for automation. It makes use of software to monitor the performance of the machines, checking changes in the system and even undertaking necessary adjustment to the computer infrastructure. Security can also be integrated in the system through virtualization i.e. by combining both physical and virtual security systems (Antonopoulos, n.d.).
Optimization of resources: In a typical firm, many virtue machines are either underutilized or lie idle in the firm which constitutes wastage of resources. These could be put into better use through virtualization. One can derive enormous server consolidation benefits by removing some of the idle machines from the system. The ultimate strategy in achieving this lies in proper identification of underutilized resources and making appropriate provisions so as to avoid wastage in investment and unnecessary costs which increases the operational costs. Virtualization also makes it possible to create customized servers that can easily be duplicated across a server environment hence facilitating the deployment of servers. It is also possible to deploy multiple operating systems on the same platform which takes advantage of the benefits of various operating systems (Muehlberger, 2005).
Data center support
Server virtualization provides meaningful solutions to various problems common in data centers. This emanates from their high availability, disaster recovery from automations, and consolidations. Server virtualization makes it possible to recover from disaster that would have cost firms heavily. In addition, downtimes in firms are very costly and so virtualization comes as a powerful solution against such losses. The reduction of physical servers in the data center reduces power and cooling costs while DR testing and data back up is expedited (Wolf, 2007). Savings in antivirus and back up licensing cost are achieved through discounted rates offered by software vendors for installation across a virtual environment. For example, Symantec and CommVault have been offering bundle discounts for virtualization. In addition, a single license is required to install software across a network through a virtue machine as opposed to individual installation that requires individual licenses hence higher cost.
Besides the above mentioned factors, virtualization enables many applications to be run from one virtual machine. Other individual machines can now be configured from this machine. From the virtue machine, the users can also undertake installations and maintenance performance across the network without the need for multiple installations (Princeton, n.d.).
Home Users and Virtualization
Home users can take advantage of a few share wares available from some software companies like Citrix and VMware. To optimize performance of his computer system, a home user can install a basic operating system without browsers and any other applications (Wolf, 2007). His machine could then be utilized as a virtue machine from where all other applications are run which include office. Any problem arising from software can be solved by rolling back to the previous software version. Due to the fact that only a minimal operating system is installed in the physical machines, errors are greatly reduced. The user can now define the virtue machines for different purpose such as children use, guest use, and another for other activities like software trials.
Due to the powerful nature of the modern computers, almost 90% of the time, they are usually free. One can take advantage of virtualization by converting the desktop into a server (Wolf, 2007). A virtue machine can be set up where user can connect to the desktop machine to access the server side facilities from a remote location like wireless laptop. The virtue machine gives the user freedom to exercise new ideas. This virtualization is thus cost saving because instead of purchasing new machines, new virtue machines are started.
Energy is also saved in the process since all computing requirements are met from a singe virtue machine. For example, a virtue system developed by Ncomputing of India allows seven users to share one personal computer. Using this system, the company is set to roll out their systems in India to benefit 1.8 million students (Jones, 2008). This was prompted by the research they carried out which indicated that most of the computer users use less than 2% of their PC capacity. Hence, the use of the system is expected to save up to $20 million and 90% of electricity that would be required by all the students in a normal setting.
Use of diskless work station that allow users to derive applications from a datacenter enable the computer administrator to manage and secure the desktop more efficiently without the need of attending physically to each individual work station. This is a cost effective system that is quite effective for such tasks as training purposes. It has been used mostly on military training which involves several sessions. In such an environment the administrators are able to customize the desktop environment to suite the needs of the organization with minimal time and cost implication.
Creation of a single physical resource
Virtualization has an effect of making servers, storage devices or operating systems appear to function like a single resource. This means that multiple computing systems are made to appear like a single resource (Yassin, 2009). The computing model helps to tackle the problem of power consumption and underutilization of computer infrastructure which is rampant in data centers costing enormous costs to organizations and businesses. For example, the Intel based Wintel machine when not virtualized utilizes only 7% of its capacity as Yassin (2009) observes.
Applications on demand
Health services are one of the main beneficiaries of virtualization concept. Health officers are able to access patients’ medical records remotely from the centrally located data centers. The various information management data solutions help manage and share data records through virtualization (Yassin, 2009). As a result diagnosis and treatment of patients is facilitated and made easier for the doctors
Maintenance schedules cause downtimes computer systems. These downtimes can be mitigated by implementing storage virtualization (Yassin, 2009). These help to eliminate the need for the planned downtimes which lead to losses of significant man hours in businesses. Many firms do not utilize their full storage capacity which can be utilized to perform various other functions through virtualization. There are several technologies in the market that aid in virtualization at relatively low cost. One of the storage arrays available in the market is NetApp and Hitachi which help in optimizing the utilization rate and also give the firm the freedom to transfer application from a storage array to another or from a virtue machine to another. The efforts enhance the spatial utilization efficiency in the data center (Muehlberger, 2005). In addition, when the applications are allocated within their own virtue servers, you avert the possibility of an application conflicting with the functioning of the other application. These operations are especially effective in small business environments that do not have many transactions that could pose challenges.
By virtualization of its computing environment, an organization, business or information technology department can evolve a solution that addresses their computing needs without wasting resources. The invention of Virtualization provided dramatic changes into the computing environment that helped companies to effectively manage their operations besides bringing enormous savings through economies of space, energy savings, and administrative costs of running business. This concept still has a very high potential in future by optimizing information technology infrastructure and processes. This will come as a great relieve especially with the current economic hardship that calls for greater cost effectiveness in business operations.
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