Virtualization isn’t just for large enterprises. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are finding that virtualizing servers can be a viable IT strategy. And although server consolidation is the primary reason many organizations are initially attracted to virtualization technology, it’s hardly the only driver.
Why else does it make sense for SMBs to virtualize? Here are five reasons from the experts—your IT peers and industry analysts.
1. Effective disaster recovery. Virtualization enables companies to create contingencies in the event of system failures. “The number 1 reason for virtualization—besides consolidation—is disaster recovery,” says Gary Chen, senior analyst, enterprise research, at the Yankee Group. “Most SMBs don’t have disaster recovery capabilities, or even if they do have some sort of disaster recovery, it’s not that good.”
Virtualization, by giving companies greater flexibility for running applications and storing data, provides options in the event of a systems outage. “It really gives SMBs a good shot at enterprise-class disaster recovery,” Chen says. “Recovery times for servers are less than an hour, and it’s pretty affordable.”
2. Optimized server utilization. Virtualization enables organizations to get more-efficient use out of server hardware.
“You can dynamically allocate memory and CPUs to servers as needed,” says Brad Manning, CIO at Quaker Chemical Corp. in Conshohocken, Pa. “Development and test servers are great examples. They often sit idle, in which case their resources can be allocated to production virtuals and then have short bursts of activity intermittently when they need resources. This means more bang for your buck in your data center spending and better performance for your business applications.”
“The infrastructure team did have to go through some additional training and learn the new virtualization technology, but it was well worth the investment in time and money,” Manning says. He says the company realized its goals, including having better utilization of server resources.
3. Rapid server deployments. With virtualization, “creating new servers takes a few clicks of the mouse, which dramatically shortens this part of an IT project,” Manning says. “So for implementing a new business application, it reduces the timeline for creating the server environment and often requires only that some additional storage space be added to the SAN [storage-area network].”
Shelly Barnes of Arizona Tile LLC
Arizona Tile LLC anticipates with its planned server virtualization project, says Shelly Barnes, vice president of technology and process at the Tempe, Ariz., company. Other goals include cost savings on hardware purchases, high availability of servers and enhanced business continuity through the use of virtual servers for disaster recovery.
Barnes says the virtualization effort coincides with another IT project in which the company is upgrading its ERP system. Arizona Tile expects to have its virtualization environment in place by May. The company will have three to five virtual servers and 20 to 25 physical servers running, she says.
4. Improved performance. The greater flexibility in allocation of server resources enabled by virtualization can also lead to better server performance.
“Virtual server performance can be monitored, and resources can be allocated where needed,” Barnes says. “This will help us put the resources where they are needed for special projects or certain times of day.”
5. Efficient software delivery. One of the latest trends in the industry is the emergence of virtual appliances, which enable new ways to deliver software applications to users.
Software vendors are just beginning to look at this technology as a way of delivering their products to customers, Chen says. “If you have virtualization, deploying and managing applications becomes a lot easier,” he says. “Users get the applications as system images. It’s the same as having a physical machine without the physical machine” and the associated costs.