Virtual is its own reward

25 Jun 2008

Virtualisation is not a new concept but the growing realisation of what it can do, is.

Customers are just beginning to understand how it can better provision and manage computing resources. Greater economic and infrastructure advantages, as well as integrated tools to manage new configurations, are required to broaden the customer adoption of virtualisation software.

Non-virtualised servers present IT departments with a range of problems. Dedicated servers can result in wasted resources: servers have memory and processor power that far exceeds the demands of light workloads; hardware, maintenance and management investment remains constant, whatever the server’s workload. In addition, time and effort is required to deploy a server; the ongoing cost for hardware maintenance increases as the equipment gets older and the physical requirements of those servers are the same, regardless of the utilisation of the server computer.

In Ireland the benefits of virtualisation are becoming increasingly clear. Although 60pc of Microsoft Ireland enterprise customers say they are evaluating or executing virtualisation projects, less than 10pc of servers are virtualised today. Clearly, the opportunity for further virtualisation remains significant. Microsoft’s aim is to accelerate virtualisation adoption and at the Dublin launch of Windows Server 2008 the virtualisation sessions were full to capacity and customer interest in Hyper-V is tremendous.

The objective for IT departments is to reduce server count – and the management burden associated with the ever-growing size and complexity of an enterprise core infrastructure – whilst increasing server utilisation. Virtualisation brings a wide range of benefits to customers that include server consolidation, power reduction, application compatibility and improved backup. The bottom line for customers is that virtualisation significantly reduces costs and delivers quick returns on their investment. It allows customers to instantly put different resources together in real-time, allowing for greater flexibility and simplified change management. As a result, making a change or adding new capability happens dynamically – in seconds instead of hours or days.

Microsoft’s Irish customers are already enjoying the benefits of virtualisation. Nissan Ireland is implementing Windows Server 2008 in its new premises because of the incredible saving in energy costs. Its CIO Rory Donnelly says virtualisation will allow the company to reduce power consumption, build an R&D environment and will form a core part of our business recovery plan. The flexibility that virtualisation offers will allow Nissan to provision test environments quickly and easily.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 is the next stage in the company’s move to accelerate the adoption of virtualisation. It is designed to exploit the potential of virtualisation with Hyper-V. It contains everything needed to support machine virtualisation, enabling IT organisations to reduce costs, improve server utilisation and to create a more dynamic IT infrastructure. Hyper-V provides greater flexibility because of dynamic, reliable and scalable platform capabilities combined with a single set of integrated management tools for both physical and virtual resources.

Combined forces

But virtualisation alone is not enough to leverage optimum solutions from IT. The combination of virtualisation with other core technologies, including security, policies, user-interface and services, is where the real benefits can be found.

Due to the complexity of virtual environments the necessity for management becomes ever more important. Management shows where virtualised resources reside – since they’re no longer installed in one location – but even more importantly, it enables the real-time allocation of resources, which is one of the core principles of dynamic IT.

Recognising this new reality, Microsoft has designed the System Center management suite, made up of Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager, Configuration Manager and Data Protection Manager. This suite delivers the provisioning, monitoring and backup tools for both virtual and physical environments, both desktops and servers, both operating system and applications, and across multiple hypervisors. It is this combination of different types of virtualisation products, all orchestrated through a single set of management tools, that provides the foundation for a dynamic IT environment from the data centre to the desktop.

Additionally, Microsoft is simplifying the move to virtualisation on a number of levels, with products that are cost-effective and therefore enable company-wide deployment. For example, the combination of Windows Server 2008 with the System Center management suite is approximately one third of the cost of a solution from the leading competitor. Microsoft is also offering the free Virtualisation Solution Accelerators tool to help customers analyse and implement virtualisation for both their desktops and data centre environments.

We know that virtualisation is one of the key components in delivering dynamic IT and so we are deeply committed to making it as easy as possible for customers to use virtualisation throughout their infrastructure. Microsoft is investing heavily in new features and functionality in its products but these shifts are not just about technology. All parts of the company, from customer sales teams to technical support groups, are equipped to help customers gain the very real benefits of virtualisation. With the Irish launch of Windows Server 2008 on 11 March, we believe virtualisation has moved to a whole new level.

By Bill O’Brien, business group lead, server and tools, Microsoft Ireland