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Monday, November 08, 2004

Virtualisation and Reality

Infoworld has published an excellent article titled, Virtualisation and Reality. We covered the importance of virtualisation in our earlier blog Hal Stern on next generation datacenter saying,"On Next Generation Data Center: - The first is that I think it’s largely going to be defined by virtualization of resources. So virtualization at the storage level, virtualization at the processor and memory level, and then finally virtualization at the application level". This infoworld article written by Tom Yager says,although it may seem like magic, server virtualization is real, and it's giving admins unprecedented control over enterprise datacenters. Excerpts:
Server virtualization is one of those rare technologies that sounds too good to be true, but it’s real. Its earliest use was to consolidate underutilized server hardware onto a smaller number of machines. It has now grown into a multipurpose solution that enables greater reliability, improved management, and other benefits that make it an all-but-indispensable tool for enterprise datacenter administrators. To use an oversimplified definition, a virtual server mimics, using software alone, the behavior and capabilities of a stand-alone computer.The bottom of the software stack is occupied by a single instance of an ordinary operating system that’s installed directly onto the server hardware. Above that, a virtualization layer handles the redirection and emulation that make up the virtual computer. The combination of these two lower layers is referred to as the host. The host provides the full workings of a familiar PC right down to its BIOS ROM, and it can spawn as many independent PCs -- using varying user-defined configurations -- as you choose.
As are physical servers, a virtual PC is useless until you install an operating system on it. The operating systems that you install on your virtual hosts are called guests. Installing a guest OS can be as easy as booting from the OS’s installation CD. It’s just like installing an OS on a PC, and in general, if you wonder how virtualization will behave, that’s the answer: Just like a PC. In fact, in an all-Windows environment, it’s easy to lose your place: Are you looking at your Windows host OS or at one of the four Windows guest OSes you just installed? You might get confused, but your guest OSes and their applications never do. Each guest OS believes it has the whole machine to itself. And, in a sense, it does.
Virtualization is magnificent stuff, but it doesn’t jump out of the box and cure all ills. You can never create a virtual PC that outperforms the physical system underneath. You will learn much about your applications’ system requirements from moving them to a virtual environment. They’ll likely surprise you, either with how little of the original server they used -- that’s the typical case -- or how piggish they are. If necessary, you can throttle the nasty ones down. And while one of the great benefits of virtualization is security -- it’s hard to accomplish much by cracking a system that doesn’t exist -- a virtualized PC can still be compromised. Fortunately, the cure is to overwrite the virtual PC’s disk image with one that’s known to be clean, but managing virtual servers still requires vigilance.
Ultimately, hardware consolidation is only one reason to opt for server virtualization, and it has wide appeal
. Still, depending on each department’s unique needs, IT managers are sure to find innumerable ways that virtualization can benefit your enterprise. Too good to be true? Maybe. But it’s also too good to pass up.Virtualisation solutions about from Vmware, Microsoft,IBM and various open source projects. A very nice article simplfying a complex idea and implementation issues.
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