1.0 Executive summary
In order for any business to remain competitive in this age of technology, it is necessary to consider virtualization processes in its operations. Many businesses have already adopted this new technology and many are expected to deploy it in the near future. As discussed in this paper, virtualization has many benefits that help to improve the efficiency of any business. These benefits include reduced operations and capital costs, improved efficiency of the operations of the business, data security through recovery process, cloud computing among other advantages to the business (Overby, 2008). On the other hand, there are many disadvantages that are associated virtualization in the business. These demerits include increased physical failure of the server, low efficiency; additional skills and management tools are required and finally frequent complex problems that affect the operations of the whole system. However, using appropriate strategies such as prior planning will help the business to maximize the benefits and at the same time reduce the potential problems.
Increased competition in the market has forced many businesses to evaluate their present technology level to enable them cut their budget for IT in order to remain competitive in the market. According to Overby, (2008), virtualization is taking place in shopping, education and in social networks. Business products’ demand is also exceeding the pace of IT. This compels companies to design more efficient technological advancements to meet their customers’ needs. One of the possible solutions to this problem is virtualization, which is currently adopted by many companies to improve their services. From the research, about sixteen percent of the workload in different businesses was done using virtual machines in 2010 and that number is expected to rise to fifty percent by 2012 as many medium and small enterprises adopt this new technology. Falling price of this technology is also facilitating its adoption in many enterprises. Different companies use various types of virtualization to enhance their network management systems depending with the type of operations a certain business deals with. These may include server virtualization, network virtualization, storage virtualization and other types of virtualization. All these types of virtualization come with their benefits and costs to the network management team of the business and it is therefore important for the IT managers to evaluate both side of virtualization to ensure that their business make informed decision when they are adopting this technology. This study attempts to analyze the impacts of virtualization in network management and the benefits and costs that are associated with this technology.
3.0 Background information
In computing, virtualization is the process of creating a virtual version of certain things such as operating systems, hardware platforms, network resources or storage devices. The reason why companies adopt this technology is to ensure centralized administrative tasks as well as improving workloads and scalability. Virtualization technology was developed for the first time in 1960s to divide large hardware used in those days for their better utilization (Neiger et al., 2006). Even today, x86 architecture based computers have the same problem of rigidity and low utilization. Thus inventions such as VMware were later developed to deal with these challenges.
4.0 Positive impacts
a) Reduced operations and capital costs
It is possible to put all in-house technology in one single server that can serve the whole organization. This will help to reduce operational and capital costs (Sacconaghi et al., 2007). Initially organizations had a number of physical serves that were used to perform different tasks such emailing, printing and serving data centre. All these serves had to be connected to the power supply separately and kept at temperatures that were consistent for 24/7. This required other power resources that could cool both the data centre and the processors. It was therefore costly to the companies to maintain these servers. However, adoption of virtualization technology will solve all these network management problems. For example, the use of VMware will enable businesses to virtualize numerous physical servers to just one machine. This will make it possible for the business to use a single power server rather than to use different one for various machines. Use of a single server will also help businesses to lower their costs through minimal physical support such as power supply and lowering environmental impacts since it will reduce carbon footprint released in the businesses. It will also not require constant temperature maintenances as well as much power as was required previously. VMware virtualization will enable the company to minimize capital expenses through automation and server consolidation. In addition, unplanned and planned downtime will be reduced in the company.
b) Cloud computing
Cloud computing is also made possible through virtualization where all the IT infrastructures are automated through network management (Creeger, 2010). Computer clouding enables organizations to suit different needs of their customers through private and public cloud. Private cloud can be provided within the premises of the organization to give different services to the consumers while public cloud can be hosted in the ISV premises where it can assessed through the internet. There are many service providers of public cloud such as Goggle Apps, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, among others that can help businesses to reach their consumers more effectively.
c) Data protection
Virtualization of servers will provide business with opportunities to improve its data management. This comes as the business reduces the number of physical servers needed for different operations thus enabling it to extend protection to many data types and applications. In this tough economic times, business continuity in case of disaster is very important. System failures always lead to loss of revenue and low productivity thus affecting the stability of the business. Data storage statistics show that many businesses that undergo a significant downtime or data loss end up closing within a period of one year. Even minor outages can affect the satisfaction of the customers as well as productivity of the employees. Server virtualization will therefore provide the business with recovery mechanism in case of any disaster. This assures business continuity and low level of risks. Data storage is a crucial component in any business and the manner in which information is handled can have significant implications to the whole company. Virtual and physical servers’ performance will depend with how well data is managed in the company. In addition, storage virtualization will reduce physical components that are deployed, protected and managed. Unprotected physical resources will give the company an opportunity to protect other data and applications using fewer or same resources (Lunsford, 2009).
d) Improved efficiency
Various types of virtualization will help to improve the efficiency of businesses. For example, desktop virtualization will enable the business to create IT infrastructures that are more flexible thus making it possible for the business to respond more urgently to market opportunities and changes. Deploying desktops and applications will also be done in a more consistent and faster manner making it possible to serve numerous clients simultaneously thus improving the level of services. Virtualizing applications will eliminate conflicts in installation that will help to improve the efficiency of the whole system (Kleidermacher, 2009). It will also be possible for the business to move its desktops to the branches and remote offices while at the same time maintaining security and control through cloud computing. This will improve communication among various offices and between branches and headquarter thus improving the efficiency of the whole organization. Intel VT also has a number of benefits to the whole organization that help to raise the efficiency of the business. First, it increases the speed of the network enabling all the operations in the organization to be done within a short period of time. Secondly, Intel VT will provide the business with a platform for developing VMMs that are more capable thus improving the efficiency of the services provided in the business. Thirdly, it also has a component for research that can work with VMM vendors to ensure required future functionality. For example, it is possible nowadays to use VMMs to create virtual machine that can use four CPUs in the configuration of a multiprocessor.
5.0 Negative impacts
Though there are many benefits that a business can enjoy after vitualizing its network systems, adoption of this technology also comes with a lot of challenges that management team need to consider before making a decision to implement it. These challenges include;
a) Increased physical failures
In virtualization, all servers are connected in one main server and if this server fails, all the other servers will also fail. This is a common incident where the host server may have some physical problems like hard disk failure that results to its malfunction. Since the other servers are controlled through this host sever, they will also stop functioning and therefore affect network system of the whole organization. This problem could not occur if all the servers are independent since malfunctioning of one server will not affect the operations of the other severs.
However, it is possible to minimize the consequences of this problem using back up devices and clustering. Virtual machines can be backed up with CPD solution as a way of compensating after the system fail. All VMs will be restored quickly after the failure of the physical server, though it requires enough space to be available in the other backup server. Again, this may require the company to purchase redundant hardware that may increase the costs of virtualization.
b) New skills
Virtualization as a technology requires new operating skills that may not be available in many organizations. Though virtualization may sound like an easy thing just to install and then deploy as the staffs normally does, it is more than that. After installing the solution in the organization, many things are different and require the necessary IT skills for the whole system to operate effectively. For example, after installing the new solution, many servers may fail to operate due to problems such as low RAM capacity in the host server that may require system administrators to learn new skills for effective virtualization environment. There are many problems that occur just because different servers are sharing one single server. These problems may affect the operation of the whole system thus requiring the organization to look for the necessary technical skills. This may increase the costs of installing the new technology.
c) New tools for management
The benefits of virtualization can only be realized if the business has the necessary tools for management. Virtualization solution only comes with a few tools for supporting management tasks that are basic, which means that additional utilities will be required for effective operation of the system. These additional utilities may include backup solutions for disaster recovery and they cost time and money to the organization. Again, there is no real standard for management of the virtual servers and various types of virtualizations may require different supporting devices. For instance, in the market one may find numerous back up tools that can be used to protect UNIX, Mac machines and windows. However, there is no single tool that can support all of them at the same time thus requiring company to keep changing their management tools as its operations increases. In addition, servers may increase at a faster rate than administrators who are supposed to control their operations. Thus it is necessary for the management to control the number of servers.
d) Increased complex problems
Adopting virtualization technology means that the whole system will be totally changed. A new type of complexity comes with the creation of virtualized environment that can cause numerous problems that were not experienced there before. For example, many applications may fail to operate as they are expected forcing administrators to go extra mile to find and analyze the causes of these new and dynamic problems. For example, after installing a Linux server to operate as virtual server, you may find that SSH sessions are disconnected at times in one machine but running effectively under another different but similar machine. It is difficult to know the real cause of such behaviors since the two servers are expected to behave in a similar manner but they are behaving differently. Such problems are common with virtualized environment and they may cause headache and consume a lot of time to the system administrators. Analyzing these new and complex behaviors may be very expensive to the organization since they require its system administrators to update their skills frequently.
e) Low performance
The performance of the whole organization may reduce due to constant failures of the system. Though virtualized machines may run powerfully, a few minutes failure of the host server will affect the operations of the whole organization especially if there was no powerful back up. To make matter worse, many potential problems are difficult to identify before they occur. This means that the ability of the system administrators to prevent their occurrence will be limited. When the whole system fails, all operations and services of the company comes to a standstill. For example, when a server that was used to communicate with customers fail, then the customers will lose their confidence with services of the company and they may end looking for alternative service providers. This will affect the profitability of the company in a big way.
6.0 Virtualization Strategies
In order to reap the full benefits that come with virtualization, any business should consider how to optimize the advantages of this new technology and at same time giving attention to the potential disadvantages. Here are some of the strategies that may be applied by those organizations that intend to use this new technology as a way of improving their efficiency. First, a good plan for virtualization is required in order to know the best virtualization solution to acquire. This plan will entails identifying the current drivers in the business, identifying the risks and finally the expected return on the investment and the costs associated with it. Identifying the current resources in the company will help to select the most appropriate host that will be used to serve the other servers with minimal problems. Analyzing applications to be deployed is important since it will enable system administrators to know the best servers to share a single server. If the correct severs are not identified before their connections, many problems may arise. Again, it is also necessary to identify all the functionality that are needed such as virtual tools and engine which fits the needs and specifications of a certain business. Considerations for data storage should also be identified and included in the plan. This is to ensure that the acquired virtual solution fit the backup servers that are already in the organization thus reducing costs for acquiring new one.
Secondly, identify the skill capacity of the organization to gauge whether it has the required human capital. Effective virtualization system requires the organization to have highly qualified and experienced systems administrators. There are many problems that come with virtualization such as physical failures of the server, new system behaviors, and malfunction among others that require administrators to search their real causes. This is not easy and it may force the organization to stop operating for many hours. Thus it is important for any business that is planning to adopt the new technology to consider its knowhow capability and if it is below the standards, it may consider hiring more system administrators who are skilled before deploying the new applications. Finally ensures that even all the staffs in the businesses are aware of the intended plan to acquire the new technology as a way of preparing them psychologically. This will also give them time to equip themselves with the skills they may require to work effectively in the virtualized environment. These preparations may include updating their IT skills through training.
Virtualization is one the technology businesses are adopting to improve their efficiency nowadays. This technology was started in 1960s and it has been used for numerous purposes to improve network system in different areas such as in education, shopping, and social networking among other areas. Virtualization has many benefits which include improved efficiency, protection against data loss, reduced operations and capital costs, computer clouding among others that it make an option to many organizations that would like to improve their efficiency and reduce costs at the same time. Virtualization also has a number of disadvantages such as increased physical failures, additional management tools and skills, complex problems and low performance. Nevertheless, these problems can be minimized using different strategies such prior preparations among others.
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