One of best ways to streamline business infrastructure is to use a process called virtualization. Virtualization basically reduces the need for physical hardware as it uses software environments to create and share hardware resources. On one physical desktop computer you can run multiple operating systems, each sharing the hardware of the desktop computer to give portals to “virtual” computers.
Benefits of Virutalization
What benefit does this serve? Well, firstly, it reduces the need to purchase individual computing hardware and allows a single structure of hard disks, memory, and video graphics to be used in multiple environments within a single core operating system – Windows, for example. This saves money as you only need to purchase one physical computer. What you can do with the virtual machines, that use software applications like Microsoft’s Virtual PC or VMWare Workstation, is to run multiple servers for your company. Domain controllers, each serving a specific purpose, can all be handled on one physical machine. This also reduces the physical imprint as there s less required space.
Safe Environment for Testing
Another benefit that virtualization holds is that it allows new software to be tested in a secured environment. Since a virtual computer does not affect the operation of the host OS (operating system), it makes for a great tool to test different OS’s and applications alike. If you wanted to see how Ubuntu would work, but didn’t want to erase your current computer configuration, you could simply create a virtual machine and load Ubuntu on it and see if you like it or not. Also, you could test certain software to see how it works or to see if there are any conflicts with any other software configurations. Say, you wanted to see how Microsoft Office 2010 worked, you could install it on a virtual machine and test it out.
Backup and Restore Virtualized Data
The ease of transport of virtual machines makes it a great way to backup and restore computer images in a short amount of time. If the location of one virtual machine needs to shift to a physically different computer, all that is needed is to the virtual machine file along with its virtual disk file and you can setup that computer in minutes on the other machine. This can serve as an effective tool in disaster recovery where one physical machine goes down, and another is used to host the virtual machine files.
Hardware Resource Sharing
Virtual machines share the hardware resources. This means that the physical RAM, hard drive, and graphics adapter is shared amongst the virtual machines. Virtual disks are files that the virtual machines use to store data on their hard drive. There are usually options that allow you to allocate a fixed amount of hard drive space for each virtual machine and some even allow you to set a capacity, but only use as much as is needed and thereby using less actual disk space.
Legacy Systems Support
Virtualization also comes in handy when you need to keep an instance of a legacy system running. For example, some of your software is only compatible with Windows 98, but you’ve moved onto newer OS’s, you can create a virtual machine that runs Windows 98 and allows you to run your legacy applications.
I’ve used virtual machines for training and testing purposes. Virtual machines are great when you’re studying for courses like MCITP, where you need multiple servers and workstations. One single computer can handle the whole virtual network and there’s no worry in messing things up. I would highly recommend the use of virtual machines so that your company can benefit from the advantages outlined above.