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Enhancing an Organization’s Agility: Exploring the Power of Server Virtualization

Server virtualization is a technological approach that allows multiple virtual machines (VMs) to run simultaneously on a single physical server. A hypervisor or virtual machine monitor is installed onto the physical service, enabling the creation and management of these virtual machines that can run separate operating systems and applications.

There are two types of hypervisors:

  1. Type-1 Hypervisor – these run directories on top of hardware where they stand in for operating systems and communication directly with the ISA interface.
  2. Type-2 Hypervisor – referred to as a hosted virtual machine, these require the assistance of an operating system meaning operating system-managed applications that communicate with this hypervisor via ABI and simulate the ISA of virtual hardware for guest operating systems.

Breaking Down Virtualization

With server virtualization, each virtual server is separated from the others and each virtual environment can run efficiently without experiencing compatibility issues or lagging.

There are three major types of server virtualization:

  1. Application Virtualization – this method is quick and affordable and uses virtualization to host and implement specific apps or software without taking down the operating system for any installation or updates.
  2. Client Virtualization – also referred to as desktop virtualization allows for the simulation of an entire OS that utilizes server resources commonly in situations where employees may not have the necessary equipment to run applications. Using managed login credentials, employees can access resources from multiple machines.
  3. Security Virtualization – this provides scalable protection by using security software on the virtual machines and is commonly hosted by the cloud or managed by a third party. This type of network security also can quickly move between virtual and physical machines within the network.

While those are the major and most common types of server virtualization, we can break down server virtualization even further.

  1. Para Virtualization – in this model, there is emulation and trapping of overhead in software-implemented virtualization with the guest operating system being modified and recompiled before installation. After this modification is implemented, the guest operating system will communicate with the hypervisor directly, and emulation overhead is removed.
  2. Hardware-Assisted Virtualization – this method reduces the overhead of software emulation and translation while improving the performance and efficiency of VMs. This type of virtualization allows the VMs to access the CPU, memory, and I/O devices of the host network directly without relying on a hypervisor.
  3. Kernel Level Virtualization – this is a free and open-source method that is built into the specially modified kernel that allows that kernel to function as a hypervisor. This modified kernel contains an extension designed to manage and control multiple VMs each containing a guest operating system.
  4. OS or System Level Virtualization – this method runs multiple but distinct environments on a single instance of the operating system kernel. This is commonly referred to as a shared kernel approach where all VMs share a common kernel.
  5. Cloud Virtualization – referred to as cloud computing or cloud infrastructure, this technology allows users to access and utilize resources like servers, storage, and network safety over the internet.
  6. Storage Virtualization – this process of abstracting physical storage resources including hard drives or storage arrays into a virtual layer that can be managed independently with physical storage devices being pooled together as a single, unified storage system.
Illustration of servers connected to devices and to the cloud - concept of cloud computing

Most commonly server virtual is used in incidents including data center consolidation, testing environments, desktop virtualization, backup and disaster recovery efforts, cloud computing, or for the support of multiple platforms and increased availability.

Best Practices

Implementing server virtualization can be a game-changer for organizations and when implementing there are some important steps to keep in mind. Some best practices of server virtualization implementation include:

  • Create a plan – this plan should address how and why the organization needs server virtualization. Use this time to consider costs, potential complexities, and overall benefits. Planning can also include the development of a set of guidelines that help an organization stay within budget, avoid wasted resources and VBM sprawl, and ensure that employees adhere to agreed-upon responsibilities for system maintenance.
  • Know your options and consider organization needs – it is important to assess the hardware and solutions that are available for your specific needs. Ask questions such as: what are the competitors using? What needs need to be met? What solutions are even available? What solution meets the organization’s unique virtualization need? How will it affect the infrastructure’s security, compliance, or disaster recovery plans?
  • Test – while most of us want a one-and-done deal, it is not always that simple. Be sure to try out any potential solutions to see how they affect day-to-day operations and how it affects employees, especially IT staff.
  • Start small – luckily, virtualization is scalable, if an organization is new to virtualization, start small, deploy on non- critical systems, and adjust based on those results.
  • Use the right tools – once an organization decides on a virtualization platform, you will need to obtain the right tools to help you manage and make the most out of the platform chosen.

The Powerful Difference

Once implemented, server virtualization can give an organization the competitive edge it needs to stay on level with the competition, regardless of size or industry. Besides maintaining a competitive edge, an organization can experience a plethora of benefits from server virtualization. These benefits can include:

  • Improved server reliability
  • Increased availability
  • Lower total operational costs
  • More efficient utilization of physical servers
  • 24/7/356 monitoring of virtualization infrastructure
  • More efficient data backup and recovery
  • Image-based backups
  • Increased IT productivity and efficiency
  • Lower energy consumption
  • More efficient use of power
  • VMs are created per the organization’s specifications
  • Virtual servers are housed in secure data centers that take advantage of power, cooling, and facility support
  • Reduced downtime for physical infrastructure maintenance
  • Enhanced server versatility
  • Increased application performance
  • Reduced security threats

Server virtualization is continuously growing into a powerful tool for organizations with a single server performing the duties of several machines, consolidating hardware, and increasing resource availability. No matter the size, every organization can utilize and reap the benefits of choosing to implement server virtualization. Are you ready or want to understand more about it? Contact us at AIS today!