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Virtualization is more than a buzzword. It can save you thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars.
Innovative businesses of all sizes are applying server virtualization to:
What is server virtualization? It consolidates onto one physical server virtual versions of business applications and their operating systems (OS) - such as file servers, Microsoft Exchange, or SQL databases - that must otherwise be housed individually in dedicated servers.
Businesses that invest in server virtualization realize ROI in up to five ways, report Cisco® Certified Partners that provide virtualization services to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
"You'll typically see cost savings in the area of 50 percent on hardware, power, and cooling," says Doug Renner, CEO at Peak IP Solutions. A Cisco Premier Certified Partner, Peak IP Solutions specializes in IP communications and infrastructure, and provides a range of managed services.
The consolidation of multiple applications cuts all the hardware costs of a dedicated server - hard disk, CPU, memory, power supplies, network cards, switch ports, and the server itself.
Virtualization is a "green" technology. It requires less facility space than dedicated servers and decreases the costs to heat and cool that space. It also reduces the costs to power the servers and their internal fans.
One customer of Ubisec Systems that converted 30 dedicated servers to 2 virtual hosts cut its energy costs by 70 percent, says Edward Sohn, CEO at Ubisec. A Cisco Premier Certified Partner, Ubisec Systems specializes in cloud infrastructure, voice, and security solutions; it also offers managed services to SMBs.
"Fewer servers means less IT staff time spent on them," says Renner. He estimates that virtualization can reduce ongoing system administration and maintenance time spent by IT staff by about 20 percent.
Having fewer servers also reduces the labor costs for specialized OS knowledge. "As anyone with at least 10 servers knows," says Sohn, "having servers from multiple vendors requires expertise and ongoing training in each vendor's OS.
"And when there's a problem, having servers from multiple vendors can take much longer to resolve because you don't have 'a single throat to choke.' Having integrated virtualization - for example, Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS™) servers running VMware-saves a lot of staff time, pain, and money," he says. Prices on Cisco UCS C-Series servers start at about $3000; an optional virtual interface card also reduces CapEx for network interface cards, HBAs, cabling, and switches.
Virtualization technology helps prevent business downtime. One reason, says Sohn, is that the newer and simpler server environment increases performance and management control. Renner adds that a controller built into Cisco UCS C-Series servers lets all configuration and management be accomplished remotely.
Virtualization also allows each server to be easily and regularly backed up and replicated as a complete virtualized image onto a separate disk-based storage appliance, says Renner. If an application or server fails, the backup virtual server can be used immediately.
Virtualization helps protect against business disruption in the case of a natural disaster, power outage, or human error or attack. A business with a backup virtual server can replicate it and store a copy offsite, by doing so itself or using a managed service.
Peak IP Solutions provides a managed service that replicates and monitors server backups and stores encrypted copies offsite at two data center sites.
Adding new business applications is a whiz. "Building a traditional application server - acquiring it, setting it up, and configuring it - typically takes a few weeks," Renner says. "In a virtualized environment, adding a server can take as little as five minutes."
Virtualization can also streamline routine business processes. Before seeking help from Peak IP Solutions, one software company with about 500 employees at multiple sites had been setting up a variety of dedicated Linux, Windows, and other OS servers to develop, test, and perform quality assurance on its code. Now staff engineers test their code much more quickly on the fully configured virtual servers.
"And when they find a bug, they can save the exact situation into storage and refer to it whenever they want, like a reference volume in a library," says Renner.
Is Virtualization Right for Your Business?
Applying server virtualization is a technology journey. "It's not just a server project or a network project; it's both," says Sohn.
The first step is to assess your business's current server, network, and storage performance and capacity, and evaluate future requirements. The next step is to perform a cost/benefit analysis.
Cisco Certified Partners with expertise in virtualization can help your business with both of these steps, and throughout the virtualization journey - including planning, technology financing and training, and award-winning ongoing support.
Find a Cisco Certified Partner who can help you ensure that your virtualization investment produces a high ROI.
Watch a video overview of the Cisco UCS C-Series.
Show your techies the Innovators article Four Steps to Virtualization: How to Start A Server Project