Guide to virtualisation - Geek Guru

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Guide to virtualisation

Row of serversIf there’s one word that’s been causing excitement in the IT press in recent years it’s virtualisation. Previously the preserve of large enterprises, virtualisation is now being seen in even the smallest of business and with it comes huge business benefits. At Geek-Guru we have been working with virtual servers for many years, and using them commercially with clients for around 2 years, but what does virtualisation mean for your business? Read on to find out!

Traditional networkPre-virtualisation – The way it used to be done

To understand the benefits of virtualisation you need to appreciate the difference between a physical server and the roles that server fulfils.

Traditionally a physical server, I.e. the box itself, ran one server operating system (O/S). Be it server 2000, 2003 or Small Business Server, the physical machine could only ever run one O/S at any one time – but that operating system could have one or more distinct roles.

Roles include running as a file server, e-mail server, domain controller etc and the more roles you put on a server the more work it has to do simultaneously – sharing CPU time and memory space between each role. This causes problems when two or more roles vie for resources. To complicate matters, certain roles can not be installed on the same O/S due to conflicts or security issues.

This is why even mid-sized businesses may have several servers. Each server responsible for a specific role.

Virtual NetworkThe virtualisation age

A virtual machine is basically a software implementation of a physical computer. This software computer can be used like a real computer in every way, it can have an O/S installed on it and it can run one or more roles just like a real computer.

Virtual machines run on a server configured for this purpose – called a hypervisor. The real benefit from virtualisation is that one physical box configured in this way can run any number of virtual machines without those virtual machines conflicting. This means that one box can support multiple computers running roles that previously needed to be run on separate hardware.

By using virtual machines it’s possible to run an entire network on a single physical machine with no conflicts between roles and far greater utilisation of resources.

So what does this mean in practice?

The technical benefits are numerous but from our clients perspective it means they can run multiple servers at a far reduced cost.  This means we are able to achieve optimal separation of server roles where previously budgetary constraints would have meant that we needed to run roles on the same server instance. 

The net result is faster servers, less role conflicts, greater role security and ultimately less downtime.

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