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26 October 2008

Virtualization - Cost effective and Environment friendly

In the last few years, the hardware industry and its technological advancements are on par with software technologies. To be precise and honest, the hardware industry in fact outperformed the software industry by introducing so many features. In the past, particularly the processor manufacturers were focussed on increasing the clock frequency of the processors. The clock frequency saturation forced the processor designer to focus on other aspects to increase the processing power. The processor vendors used variety of other techniques such as hyper-threading to improve upon the processing power.

The recent day computers/hardware devices have more processing power and the hard truth is that less than 50% percent of the hardware resources are used on an average basis. In a normal day, the hardware irrespective of whether it is a desktop system, servers or servers in data center, all the resources are under utilized.

The pace of hardware advancement also forces organizations to spend considerable money on upgradation. But the worst part in upgrading is it that it soon becomes outdated within few months after the upgrade. The organizations spend hefty sum on upgrades. Particularly, the hardware upgradation may not be considered as investment but as running cost to maintain the existing services. By and large, there is no ROI for the upgrade. Also, after the upgrade there is greater possibility of throwing the old and outdated hardware. Having a lot of physical resources directly affects the manageability such as security and regularly maintaining the resources.

The next problem and most important one is energy. There has been consistent appeal from the entire humanity of conserving power. Not only that it leads to depletion of energy but also increases the operating cost. The fuel and energy prices are increasing day by day and the organizations are looking out opportunities to reduce cost on energy. The conservation of energy has twin advantages. First it reduces the operating cost and secondly it leads to Green revolution. But the more the hardware, the more it consumes power directly affecting the operating cost. Secondly, because of the large number of physical hardware, a lot of heat is generated and which once again increases the energy demand (spend time and effort to improve infrastructure for quick heat dissipation). The over consumption of energy is recurrent problem. To summarize, there are three main issues - low resource utilization, higher maintenance cost and higher energy consumption.

Considering all the above facts, Virtualization as a technology offers a lot edge. Virtualization is software abstraction layer allowing us to run multiple virtual operating systems in parallel. With virtualization one can run multiple virtual machines simultaneously and thus improving the resource utilization of physical resources. Since these virtual machine run on single physical server, it leads to energy conservation. Also, it reduces the hardware upgradation cost to a larger extent.

Apart from the main advantages, being a software layer, virtualization offers lot of features which increases the productivity. The entire virtual machine is stored as single file leading to easy archival. An important feature that must be mentioned is "Isolation". Each virtual machine is isolated (sandbox) and even the virtual machines running on the same machine need to communication through virtual network. This particular feature boosts the security of the virtual machines.

Virtualization is used in many areas such as storage virtualization, server virtualization, virtualizing application and also in software development lifecycle. Based on the research by Gartner, the virtualization market is expected to grow exponentially and there will be lot of organization showing interest for adopting virtualization.

Hope this article would have given an overview about virtualization. In the upcoming articles, we will discuss more on various virtualization products.

Please do share your feedback/comments.

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