Server virtualization technology creates multiple virtual servers on a single physical server. At the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, we've virtualized 320 of approximately 800 servers to achieve a consolidation ratio of 4 to 10.
While VMware is an excellent choice for virtualization software, there are many other options available today. Citrix XenServer, HP Integrity Virtual Machines and Microsoft Hyper-V are some other options to explore. These platforms may be more cost effective or provide more flexibility to virtualize heterogeneous environments. For example, HP Integrity VM can be used to virtualize not only Windows and Linux servers, but also HP-UX.
Regardless of what software, servers or storage you use, here are some practical steps to kick off a server virtualization initiative.
1 Inventory your current infrastructure. Assess your current environment by creating an inventory of all your servers by platform, the type of service they perform and the resources that each service consumes, as well as your network-attached storage and storage area network hardware. This will help you decide what virtual solution is best for your organization.
2 Decide what components are needed. Compare the virtualization software and hardware features available, the cost of each solution and the resources required to manage the virtual infrastructure. Ask yourself, Can I virtualize all my platforms with a particular manufacturer's solution? Does my choice accommodate physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversions? Consider seeking an expert assessment to validate your approach before procurement.
Factor in support needs, ensuring you have appropriate maintenance and technical support agreements. Also, consider the impact of virtualization on your software asset management.
3 Create a plan. Careful planning is a requirement for any successful virtualization project. Give yourself adequate time to install and test your server virtualization solution.
Avoid virtualizing applications that have high utilization rates or high rates of disk input/output. Determine whether hosted applications need logical or physical separation to ensure appropriate security.
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Negotiate with stakeholders and customers any potential downtime that may be required for deployment.
4 Build in redundancy. Ensure each service is distributed across virtual servers that reside on separate physical servers to provide redundancy. If you want to take advantage of native clustering and disaster recovery features, make sure you purchase adequate hardware, software and storage for a fault-tolerant infrastructure.
5 Test the solution. Create a test bed and test cases, load-test your application/databases and have user-acceptance testing before rolling out the new system to your organization.
6 Feel good about what you're doing. Virtualization reduces total cost of ownership and helps achieve faster ROI, something that every leader cares about, including your CIO. Be proud of that, and also that you're promoting green IT.
Count the Benefits
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation enjoys the following advantages of server virtualization:
- Increased fault tolerance and high availability
- Improved continuity of operations
- Reduced power consumption and cooling needs
- Smaller data center footprint
- Diminished server sprawl
- Simplified deployment
- Reduced total cost of ownership
- Lower support and licensing costs
- Better hardware utilization
- Compliance with state strategic plan
- Greener computing