Discover the Benefits of Migrating to Data Center Virtualization

In this rapidly changing business landscape, organizations need IT infrastructure that can make them agile enough to adapt quickly to changes while maintaining cost-efficiency and security. With the increased adoption of data center virtualization, several businesses should be able to meet that need.

A recent survey showed that 25% of businesses plan to use software-defined storage solutions, a key ingredient in highly virtualized data centers. The same survey also showed that 45% of businesses are planning to migrate their entire server-virtualization environment to the cloud. This, too, is a major offshoot of data center virtualization.

In this post, we discuss what data center virtualization is, its benefits, and how you can attain those benefits.

Definition of Data Center Virtualization

Data center virtualization is a strategy wherein you transform your data center into a highly nimble, available, scalable, secure, and efficient IT infrastructure by applying virtualization heavily to all key resource components of the data center, i.e., compute, storage, and networking.

You can think of it as an extension of the more familiar concept of server virtualization. In server virtualization, a hypervisor abstracts and pools the underlying physical resources, i.e., CPU, memory, storage device(s), and network, from the software running on top of it. In data center virtualization, not only are servers virtualized, so are storage and network infrastructures.

Then what you get are vast resource pools of compute, storage, and network, which you can reallocate dynamically and automatically for your virtual machines, virtual networks, and virtual datastores.

Another key aspect of data center virtualization is the presence of a unified management framework for administering the components of the virtualized data center, regardless of whether they are located on-premises or in a public cloud. So, essentially, data center virtualization brings about a hybrid cloud.

The end result is a data center where administrators can quickly reconfigure and provision IT resources on demand. A lot of this reconfiguring and provisioning can be done programmatically and in a fully automated way, something that couldn’t be accomplished easily (if ever) with a traditional, rigid data center.

Benefits of Virtualization

Virtualization has many benefits, including the ability to increase speed and flexibility; reduce costs, infrastructure, and real estate requirements; increase hosting bandwidth; and minimize downtime.

Increase Speed and Flexibility

One of the biggest benefits of data center virtualization is the amount of free time it unlocks for IT staff. In a highly virtualized data center, it’s much easier for IT administrators to reallocate resources to applications that need them the most at any given time.

So, for example, if you’re an IT administrator, and a department manager comes to you and says they need to test a newly acquired application that requires much higher CPU, memory, storage, or network bandwidth, you can simply reallocate whatever resources you have available—even resources used by a currently idle application. You couldn’t do that as quickly in a non-virtualized environment.

Reduce Capital Costs

Because virtualization enables you to pool resources and share them among applications/users, you can maximize whatever resources you have fully and avoid unutilized capacity. Server consolidation, for example, allows you to run multiple virtual servers on one physical server and have those virtual servers share the same underlying resources on that physical server. With this capability, you no longer have to purchase as many physical servers, storage devices, and network components as you would with a traditional data center.

Reduce Infrastructure and Real Estate Requirements

As you reduce your overall physical infrastructure, you also reduce your physical space requirements. You can reduce these even more if your virtual data center makes heavy use of public cloud resources. Another offshoot of this benefit is the reduction of power consumption and carbon footprint, which is critical for organizations that favor environmentally friendly strategies.

Increase Hosting Bandwidth

When you virtualize servers and consolidate them into fewer physical servers, you also eliminate the amount of network traffic that would have gone to and from those discarded physical servers. This frees up your hosting bandwidth and improves your overall network performance.

Reduce or Eliminate Downtime

Virtual machines are much easier to duplicate and clone than physical servers. They’re also easier to migrate. You can even transfer them over the network. Hence, it’s much easier to create high availability clusters as well as offsite business continuity or disaster recovery environments. It’s also faster to spin up a VM to replace one that has just failed.

Challenges of Virtualization

While virtualization has a lot of benefits, it’s not devoid of issues. Some of the challenges experienced by organizations that adopt virtualization, especially at the start of their virtualization adoption journey, include excessive diversity, lack of proper resource distribution, and VM sprawl.

Too Much Diversity

Because they eliminate a lot of time-consuming tasks (e.g., server provisioning and deployment), highly virtualized environments breed innovation. While that’s certainly a good thing, it can also encourage IT staff to try new software. That, too, is a good thing. But when you have a data center dotted with an assortment of operating systems (e.g., Windows and Linux), hypervisors (e.g., Hyper-V, ESXi, and KVM), network equipment, and so on, it could lead to inefficiencies and additional overhead costs.

Improper Resource Distribution

The ease of reallocating resources is susceptible to improper resource distribution that favors business units that consume resources more aggressively than others. For example, if left unchecked, business units that embark on big data projects or develop and test their own software could end up consuming more CPU and storage resources than those that just go about regular business operations.

VM Sprawl

Unlike physical servers that, depending on the number, may take days or weeks to provision and deploy, virtual machines require only minutes or hours for the same tasks. In fact, you could provision and deploy hundreds or thousands of VMs automatically in minutes or a few hours.

If IT administrators are nonchalant in spinning up VMs, they could cause what is known as VM sprawl. The consequence of VM sprawl is that you end up with too many virtual machines that consume resources much faster than you should, which holds them up even if you no longer need them. It also results in degraded performance, additional costs, and more attack surfaces to defend.

Data Center Virtualization Management

There are ways to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. Some of the ways that you can better manage your virtual data center include adopting standardization, addressing sprawl, implementing proper administration tools, and verifying sufficient network storage.

Adopt Standardization

Diversity can be good for your organization, but not when applied to the components of your data center. Too much diversity can only make things unnecessarily complicated when you troubleshoot issues, track licenses, integrate systems, and so on. Standardize your IT infrastructure by dealing with as few vendors as possible.

Address Sprawl

VM sprawl can be minimized by establishing policies for VM creation, monitoring and auditing VMs, identifying idle as well as over- and under-allocated VMs, deleting unused VMs, and reconfiguring VMs so that they consume only resources that they need.

Implement Proper Administration and Management Tools

While major virtualization vendors such as Microsoft and VMware already have administrative tools that come with their products out of the box, there are smaller vendors that enable you to further enhance the capabilities of the products these major vendors provide. They also add a bunch of other features that take those products to the next level.

One example is Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS), which builds on the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) capabilities of Windows Server to provide a more powerful, flexible way of delivering virtual desktops and applications. More about Parallels RAS below.

Verify Sufficient Network Storage

Storage is arguably the most in-demand resource in a highly virtualized data center. That’s because it’s needed not only for data but also for the VMs themselves. Make sure you have enough storage space in your Storage Area Network (SAN), network attached storage (NAS), or direct attached storage (DAS) devices.

How to Automate Data Center Virtualization

You’re not maximizing the full potential of data center virtualization unless you incorporate automation heavily into your data center processes. In a highly virtualized data center, practically everything is software-defined. This means you can automate things easily and programmatically, whether for installation and configuration or for scaling and troubleshooting purposes, or just about any process whatsoever.

Automation not only speeds up and streamlines your processes but also ensures security policies are enforced consistently. Best of all, it allows you to accomplish these tasks while also reducing the workload of your IT staff. So, how do you start automating your virtualized data center?

Parallels RAS: An Automated Data Center Virtualization Solution

Parallels RAS, the all-in-one virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution for delivering virtual applications and desktops to any device, anywhere, comes with several automation capabilities.

They include:

Parallels RAS can enhance the capabilities of any highly virtualized data center further by streamlining the provisioning and delivery of virtual applications and desktops, two of the most in-demand resources of today’s distributed workforces.

Try a 30-day trial of Parallels RAS today!