Server virtualisation

Following on from Abu Dhabi Ports Company completing its virtualisation programme, systems engineer Mohamad Jamal-Eddine shares an insight into the challenges the company faced during roll out.

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Server virtualisation
By  Mohamad Jamal-Eddine Published  October 12, 2011

Following on from Abu Dhabi Ports Company completing its virtualisation programme, systems engineer Mohamad Jamal-Eddine shares an insight into the challenges the company faced during roll out.

Although server virtualisation has a number of prodigious benefits, including lower costs and fewer hardware requirements, there are some issues IT and company management need to watch out for. No technology is perfect, and there are challenges associated with server virtualisation as well as some great opportunities.

One of the biggest costs associated with server virtualisation is the cost of the software licenses. Server virtualisation allows you to host a number of different servers on the same piece of hardware, but each of those server installations requires its own individual hypervisor license.

You can mitigate those costs by using open source software, but you will need to make sure you have people who can support those  systems. If you choose proprietary software, you can run into some high licensing fees.

One of the biggest advantages of server virtualisation is that it allows you reduce the number of physical servers you have at your company. But in order to make the most of your server virtualisation program you must plan your requirements properly. You can save money going forward by using virtual servers instead of physical ones, but in order to achieve the greatest cost savings you might want to consider reducing the size, complexity and cost of your server room and its support systems. That means a proper strategic planning, and sometimes a great deal of up-front cost for large enterprises, to achieve those long term savings. If your IT staff are used to working with physical servers hosting a single application, they might not be prepared to support your newly virtualised environment without having the right training. Server virtualisation has its own unique challenges, and your IT staff will need training in order to meet those challenges and support the virtual environment effectively. It is important to factor these up front training costs into your budget before you start your server virtualisation.

Server virtualisation does reduce your management, maintenance and support costs, but making your servers virtual does not mean you get rid of its costs. Many businesses mistakenly think that server virtualisation means they will no longer need to manage their servers.

Some legacy systems do not respond well to virtualisation, and it is important for businesses to thoroughly test their systems before moving to a virtual server environment. Many legacy systems expect, for instance, that each piece of hardware must have a single IP address, MAC address, WWN, and those systems might not respond properly when a number of different servers, each with its own unique IP address, exists on the same box.

The number of virtual servers you can host on a single box will depend in large part on the quality of the hardware you are using. If your servers are more than a few years old, they might not have the power they need to host more than one server application. In order to make virtualisation work, you will have to make at least a few new hardware purchases. Factoring those up front hardware costs into your budget is important, and it will make the process go a lot more smoothly.

2132 days ago
Vinod Mehra

A very valid caveat. Virtualisation implementation is not a straight game. Training, Planning, Testing and New hardware purchase are an integral part of the program. That requires a tight project management.

Having said that the complexity is vanishing out of the virtualisation and it is percolating into mainstream ICT business. Because every business success reflect how competitive they are and emerge.

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