Is Virtualization a Grassroots or a Gourmet Solution?

Virtualization is a serious technology solution that might run up a serious tab if you aren't minding your P's and V's.

There are some people who think that virtualization is a passing fancy — sort of like $7.00 a cup gourmet coffee and that it isn’t worth spending money on for the short-lived pleasure that it delivers. And then there’s that bitter aftertaste — the aftertaste of money not well spent. To get past the $7.00 a cup trendiness and the bitter aftertaste of the spending associated with virtualization, you’ll need to think outside the box — the physical box, that is.

When done correctly, virtualization is a money-saving technology but has the potential to be a major financial drain. There are some pitfalls to recognize when implementing virtualization, or any new trendy, technology — your job is to avoid them.

Whole Bean vs Instant

Some company executives cringe at the thought of using virtual machines for production services but who’d really know the difference? Your customers won’t be able to tell whole bean services from instant — only you and your barista will know for certain. You need to avoid the need for whole bean physical box systems and to allow your services to be delivered frothy and hot on virtual machines.

The transition to virtualized services requires a shift in thinking away from the whole bean tradition to the newer “instant is just as good” mindset. It takes a moment to realize that 50 physical servers can be replaced by four or six but that’s the type of break with tradition needed to be successful.

Gourmet Bean Juice

If you’re on a tight budget, that steaming cup at your corner coffee shop is pretty tasty. In the most generic sense, all virtualization solutions are the same — they are all about abstracting and sharing computing resources among several virtual machines. Shared resources are the cornerstone of virtualization. It seems fairly simple on the surface; you need to save money and virtualization allows you to leverage hardware resources to do just that. How is it then that there are gourmet solutions priced at several times their competitor’s offerings?

How does a software company justify their prices when there are several free options waiting for you? It seems strange but there’s no shortage of people who’ll stand in line for an expensive serving of what, in reality, is just bean juice. These are the same people who find themselves campaigning against virtualization as a cost-saving solution.

If you find that the cost of converting to a virtualized environment is equal to or greater than using conventional technology, perhaps you should seek out another solution or another vendor. I’m not implying that you won’t have to spend some money to switch technologies but the amount should seem reasonable for what’s delivered.

Free Coffee, Anyone?

You’ll have to supply your own cup but there’s free coffee available if you know where to look. Several free virtualization products exist to ease your financial entry into the virtualization space: XenServer, Solaris Zones, Hyper-V*, VMware ESXi. They all have their place and any one of these solutions might not completely meet your needs — a combination might be a better fit.

For example, XenServer might be a perfect fit for your web servers, ldap servers and document repository but you need native performance for your database and application servers; therefore you use Solaris Zones to fit that requirement. Don’t feel locked into a single vendor’s solution if your needs dictate otherwise — lots of people have good coffee.

Virtualization is a new technology trend and there’s a lot of hype built up around it. You’re looking for a grassroots solution that saves you money and still gets the job done. Gourmet solutions are nice for those who need the status of carrying around a cup with a particular brand name on it but for saving money, you’ll be just as satisfied with a white foam cup and money in the bank.

* You have to purchase Windows Server 2008 to run Hyper-V.

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