Server Virtualization technologies have been used in large enterprise IT environments for several years and are fast becoming an affordable option for small businesses as well. To paraphrase an old Motown song, "Virtualization! What is it good for?" and why would I want to consider this for my business? BrightWire has the answers!
Let's say your company decides to deploy a new business application that promises to improve efficiency, but you're faced with purchasing yet another new server just to host the new software. This may be a good opportunity to consider virtualization. The truth is that you would likely be required to purchase a new physical server this time, but new server can be purchased with virtualization in mind.
We employed this exact strategy for Diamond Technologies, Inc., an Olympia area manufacturing company a few months ago. They purchased a robust ERP solution for their operation that required a new server. They were also due to replace their core file, print and email servers in 2012. The new ERP software required a dedicated server, so we were faced with purchasing two new servers within 6 months. Instead, we recommended buying one robust server system able to support two virtualized server operating systems utilizing the same physical hardware. This saved our client about 35% of the upfront cost if we had just gone with two separate servers. And this upfront cost savings doesn't even account for total long-term costs for electricity, cooling, hardware warranties and so forth.
First we deployed the new ERP application on a virtualized Windows 2008 server. This was a major project in itself, and took a month or two to complete. At this point they actually did have two physical servers running; the older file and print server and the powerful new virtual server platform with a single virtualized version of the ERP application. Once the ERP project was wrapped up, we started the second project, which was to replace the original Windows file server with the latest version. The difference in this scenario is that the upgrade server was virtualized and deployed on the new powerful physical server as a separate, independent operating system that efficiently utilized the available processor, memory and storage resources of the single physical server. Now they had two completely independent server systems running on a single physical server.
We've also used server virtualization as a platform to house older operating systems running on ancient server hardware, when client budgets simply won't allow for a full upgrade/replacement project. The danger of running a server past 5 or 6 years is the increasing risk of a system or parts failure, the lack of vendor warranty or support in the event of such a failure, and the extended downtime this will create for the client.
In this risk-mitigation scenario, we purchase a new physical server and configure it to support virtualization. We then backup and restore the clients' entire server operating system using special software utilities. This allows us to restore the entire system on the new hardware and allows the client to continue operations as if nothing had changed. The entire operation is virtually seamless (pardon the pun) and transparent to the the business operation. The entire cost of this type of project is typically about 1/3 the cost of a full upgrade. The best part is that when the client is ready to complete the full upgrade at some point in the future, the foundation is already established. The virtual server technology is ready; the migration itself can be done without additional hardware purchases. And the original 1/3 cost is not squandered in any way; almost all of the cost would have been necessary to complete a proper migration project.
There's a common myth that server virtualization somehow avoids software license costs. This is simply not the case; a virtualized server still requires at least the same licensing costs as traditional server software installed on its own physical server. However, there are additional benefits that often make server virtualization the right solution for your business:
1. Much better restore capabilities in the event of a local disaster.
2. Can be easily moved to new hardware which helps if future data growth would otherwise require server expansion.
3. A virtualized server can extend the life of an old server operating system if your current budget does not allow for a complete upgrade/replacement.
Contact BrightWire Networks at 360-528-6017 for a consultation. Some applications may not support server virtualization or may need special licenses to work in a virtual environment. Older server hardware will likely not be powerful enough to be re-purposed into a virtual server, so evaluation and planning is required. BrightWire can organize a detailed project plan for cost-effectively consolidating or upgrading your servers.
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