Key questions you must answer before x86 virtualization

Virtualization for x86-based server environments has gradually progressed from early adopters to more widespread usage. However, lots of questions remain concerning the technology as well as its effects on the present IT processes and environment. Until these persistent questions are resolved, the implementation of virtualization cannot be simplified.

The shift from physical to virtual environment is not as straightforward as an altered server design or an operating system upgrade. To achieve the optimum level of success during virtualization for your x86 server, you must be ready to perform necessary changes, some of which will take time and effort. Take a look below at some common questions operations and infrastructure professionals have about the technology.

What does virtualization help you accomplish?

Most businesses press the key for x86 server virtualization to reap some obvious benefits, such as saving energy, minimizing downtime, and improving productivity. But there are certain tradeoffs that aren’t immediately clear. This is why it’s critical for your virtualization expectations to align perfectly with your IT tasks within the organization. Simultaneously, you should focus on the variables that will enable you to make your expectations a reality — or prevent you from reaching them. Some of these are:

  • Size and features of your virtual machine
  • Density and quantity of your virtual machine
  • Rules of regulation
  • Service-level demands
  • Size of the system
  • Physical machine location
  • Workload mix and time distribution

How will the virtualization initiative proceed?

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When you have a clear idea about your server goals, you should start defining the scope of your virtualization initiative.

Organizations sometimes make mistakes when choosing what to virtualize – it might be due to misconceptions they harbor about what can and can’t be virtualized. They might think very small in scope and focus more on short-term solutions, or they might miss the chance to virtualize their data storage and desktops. Such misconceptions severely limit the organization’s ability to implement and use virtualization.

The truth is, virtualization has progressed far beyond what it was even a couple years ago. Now it’s possible to virtualize even networking functions. Thus, when organizations expand their horizons, they improve their computing efficiency and enjoy more returns on investment.

All you need is some foresight. Due diligence is necessary for businesses to decide what is required in the long term. The concept of virtualization might be a relatively new one, like it is for the Cubs to win a championship (but that is another story.) To fully understand virtualization’s benefits, you should know about the resources available for management and maintenance, the existing and planned connection broker methods, and the power of a virtualized platform.

What are your priorities?

Organizations undergo virtualization in stages, with the infrastructure developed to accommodate future needs. It makes sense to prioritize your investments on opportunities that might offer the best return on investment. However, other factors need to be taken into consideration, such as the size of the workload, virtualization compatibility for apps, and the overall workload scope in every phase of implementation.

A phased approach works better for x86 environment virtualization. The scope of each implementation phase should dictate your priorities, namely the potential benefits and balancing the difficulty level. Human factors also play a key role, and though they might not be easily definable, serious consideration of these issues is critical.

How to find the right computing platform for your requirements?

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Virtualized components utilize hardware differently, which means you must know what to look for in the optimal computing platform.

  • Start with the processor. You need to find one that not only provides the best environment for your virtual server but is even compatible with your workload profile and applications. Virtual consolidation is never a CPU performance issue; what causes trouble are the total CPU cores and the memory-to-core ratio.
  • Though IT teams prefer the cheapest servers, a virtual environment has varying needs. The objective should be to find the least expensive server that can fulfill the task. A bigger system can host more servers, and usually offers greater memory and I/O. Size does matter. Just ask Godzilla!
  • One trend that is currently making waves in the IT industry is blade servers. No, they do not fight vampires! Despite their space-saving footprint and energy efficiency, blades might not be suitable for virtual computing. However, it depends mostly on the extent of standardization you wish to achieve and the environment space. Physically, they are smaller compared to rack systems and don’t allow you to include too many virtual servers under a single license. Basically, it all boils down to availing the greatest advantages with the least risks.
  • The final decision regarding the number and size of servers should be influenced by different factors, such as average utilization, cost of individual servers, maintenance requirements, server proliferation, and regulatory criteria. The particular business requirements of your organization are going to be the determining factor on how the perfect balance is possible. Large servers provide amazing consolidation ratios, but the high price is a concern. If the server size is small, average utilization will be low owing to load-balancing problems and system-resource restrictions when combining various workloads.
  • Networking considerations abound when integrating various workloads onto one physical server. Some of these are separate subnet accesses, varying bandwidth requirements, backup networks, and network redundancy. When you virtualize your x86 server, however, you gain plenty of flexibility. Moreover, as virtual networks don’t have performance constraints akin to physical networks, it is possible to simplify the environment and improve app performance.

What role do data-storage options play?

There are plenty of storage solutions available, including dedicated storage, shared storage, and even storage solutions capable of transforming dedicated storage into shared storage through hardware or software virtualization devices. It gets quite confusing when you’re trying to figure out which technologies you need to use and when. This is almost as confusing as why there are still Star Wars fans when a decent Star Wars movie has not been made in decades.

You must consider different variables, such as performance and cost differences, personal preferences, and functional limitations.

It might seem like an impossible task to get the right choice, but selecting the storage method early on in the x86 virtualization planning process is the way to go. The decision rests on different factors, like corporate objectives, capacity and performance requirements, future scope of the project, and the right combination of disaster recovery and data storage features.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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