The age-old IT conundrum: You need hardware, but don’t have the funds in the budget.
This is where virtualization comes to aid. With virtual environments, everything from saving money to improving security to streamlining IT software management is a breeze.
Of course, virtualization can mean different things to different people. Some use it to refer to video game emulation or virtual reality. In business, virtualization transforms complex tasks into manageable ones. It also removes prohibitive costs and geographic restrictions that constrain growth.
What comprises a virtual IT environment?
First, virtualization refers to using various technologies to establish a layer between software and hardware. This is employed to more effectively manage computer resources. In addition, there are three main types of virtualization:
- Hardware virtualization – This is when multiple devices are simulated within one computer. As a result, programs are prevented from causing problems to each other.
- Network/storage vritualization – This enables a single machine to operate numerous other ones. This is also the technology which allows different storage units to be accessed remotely.
- Application virtualization – The most confusing of the three since there is not a narrow definition. Both recent and older technologies get put under this term, and salesmen apply it to a broad range of devices.
There are several components and technologies which make virtual environments possible:
- Network adapters
- LAN and VLAN
- Storage devices
- Desktops and laptops
In its basic form, a physical machine connects to networks – either internal or external – and software elements as well. Essentially, this is a virtual network since it functions like a physical network but still lacks the hardware. It allows for cloud computing, testing protocols, and many other technologies in use today.
Developers use these networks to measure the effectiveness or compatibility of software before loading it onto hardware. This also creates the freedom of data we have today; for example, a mid-size company can now employ advanced data backup services via the cloud, without having to have any physical hardware themselves.
In addition, the virtual network also enables multiple personnel to access information from remote locations. There are two elements to a virtual IT environment that are worthy of a deeper look: software and network.
Known as desktop virtualization, we all have used – whether we knew it or not – this technology. Essentially, the goal is to isolate the application and desktop domain from the client. What this does is let the virtual machine behave exactly like the physical one, but without the hindrances associated with physical hardware. The efficiency and smaller resource requirements are steadily increasing the adoption of virtualization technology.
For example: Thin clients – computers designed specifically for connecting to a server – are more prevalent because of their simplicity and thrift. While they lack RAM or hardware power, they are typically geared towards specific tasks; as such, they perform those tasks without the plethora of software present in standard computers.
However, there are still pitfalls. Software often requires licensing fees; thus it is imperative to know the cost of acquisition and frequency of renewal charges. Another drawback is the upfront investment of making virtualization feasible. It depends on the type of business, but some have extensive set-up costs to get virtualization operational. Meanwhile, there is a learning curve for the staff to adapt to the new technology once it is introduced. IT usually must dedicate precious resources to troubleshoot and answer questions that come up during this transition phase.
When it comes to this component, there is a software element as well as a physical one. It begins with the software, which is then placed either inside or outside a virtual server:
– External involves collecting or dividing a physical network into virtual networks.
– Internal uses software containers to imitate a physical connection with software.
Most providers offer one or the other, while some offer a hybrid of the two. One routine use of network virtualization is to run a simulation in a test environment first, rather than installing it on a physical machine and seeing how the software performs. There is also the advantage of enabling additional services, such as a network switch that provides security over data previously unprotected.
However, keeping tabs on who is connected and what services are being used is nearly impossible on a virtual network unless strict protocols are enacted as safeguards. Also, keep in mind that virtual technology will not operate at the same speed as its physical counterpart. Despite this, the benefits reaped through virtual networks (such as data analytics accessible to all managers in a retail chain or logging employee actions to track what they do) outweigh the downsides.
Of course, alternatives exist. Some service providers deliver the benefits of virtualization without burdening you with hardware. They will take care of licensing and updates. You can specify exactly the level of service you want so you only pay for what you use while getting all the IT expertise you need in return.
There is great potential in the build out of virtual environments; but as always, it is important to assess your resources to determine how best to approach implementation. There are costs related to staffing, software acquisition, setup design, hardware capital costs, and more.
But the promises of vurtualization are too exciting to ignore. Contact us to find out more.