Virtualization: Savings Are Not Guaranteed

Virtualization is one of the most significant hot-button topics in enterprise today. Linux server virtualization has allowed enterprises to leverage resources more efficiently. It also is giving CIOs and IT managers a tool to address growing corporate concerns over environmental issues and rising energy costs.

Running virtualized servers cuts down on the number of physical servers a company needs. It also can reduce the idle time hardware servers waste with as much as 70 percent of server performance going unused. When you factor in the reduction in energy spent to power inefficient servers and their associated cooling costs, virtualizing Linux servers appears to be a clear win-win proposition for both large data center operators and mid-sized enterprises.

However, some vendors of vitualization products warn that cost savings are not always guaranteed. The process involves more than an out-of-the-box solution.

“Cost savings are not always true. It depends on how well corporations deploy the virtualization and what they are doing with it,” Geva Perry, chief marketing officer at GigaSpaces, told LinuxInsider. “Industry averages 10 to 15 percent of capacity. That’s a lot of machines sitting idle while consuming power. The biggest aim is achieving greater virtualization. That is where the savings take place.”

A lot depends on adopting the correct approach.

Different Approaches

Virtualization of the operating system can be done in two ways, according to Perry. One approach is to take advantage of your existing physical machines to make large computers behave as many little machines by running multiple virtual machines on them. This approach uses IT resources more efficiently, he said.

Another OS virtualization method is seen in the approach that Google and Wall Street firms take, he added. Corporations using this approach deploy virtualization to make many small machines act as one larger one. This is often referred to as “grid computing,” “compute fabric” or “cloud computing.”

“The benefit of this approach is scalability, meaning that as volume grows, a company just has to add more cheap boxes to handle extra activity,” said Perry.

A relatively new but fast-growing approach is the virtualization of the application platform or middleware. This trend is interesting because it addresses two of the biggest challenges inherent in applying virtualization techniques to an application: parallel processing and data access. By virtualizing the middleware stack, both these challenges can be addressed, he explained.

Green Results

Saving the environment by reducing the carbon footprint is a given with virtualization technology. But the biggest benefits from Linux server virtualization come from reducing power consumption to realize a savings in energy costs.

“This produces savings in hard dollars. But there are other reasons. For instance, virtualization provides flexibility of deploying new servers. This is dramatically different from deploying physical servers,” Charles Crouchman, CTO of Opalis, told LinuxInsider.

Virtualization increases management flow. Companies used to have a large number of physical servers. In a virtualized world, these same companies have a large number of small points. This produces more things to manage, he explained.

“The virtualization process is more dynamic. It creates more servers coming and going. This creates more processes to manage. IT Process Automation software handless this task,” Crouchman said about the product his company provides to virtualization users.

Deployment Factor

Deployment issues are always a key factor in transitioning from hardware to software virtualization, according to SpamTitan‘s CEO Ronan Kavanagh. He sees a very dramatic savings effect, usually 15 percent on average.

“We see customers who are not getting full benefits when they virtualize because they are not using virtualization appliances,” Kavanagh told LinuxInsider.

Using virtualization appliances is a relatively new approach in the industry. It has room for growth, and companies such as SpamTitan are just now touching the edge of it, he said.

“Physical appliances will be surpassed by virtual appliances in the near future,” he predicted.

Not All the Same

Though the IT industry has by and large embraced the idea of virtualization, the numerous paths now available to use it may be having a littering effect within the industry. Cost savings are not universally dispersed just because a company adopts virtualization.

For instance, take application and storage virtualization. Neither of these technologies has environmental and cost savings associated with them, according to Crouchman.

“The real money payback is found with Linux virtualization, where companies run multiple servers on fewer hardware machines. Servers are the biggest impact, much more so than storage. Application virtualization is not even in this class,” he said.

Changing Economies

As energy costs rise, changes occur in the business economy. This energy situation forces corporations to pay more attention to buying hardware, said Crouchman.

Operating system virtualization is more prevalent and cost effective for small companies. Large firms have a bigger environmental footprint, he explained.

For instance, smaller companies can move toward virtualization more quickly. Larger companies have a bigger scale of economy and have to focus on more issues than saving money. So the process can be more time-consuming and can delay the dollar savings.

Open Source Aspect

Will combining virtualization and open source software achieve greater savings? One has little to do with the other, maintains Perry., he explained.

“Most open source operating systems are not free. You pay for the support under the dual license model. So you pay just as much with open source,” he concluded.

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