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Different types of virtualization solutions for a business

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Roxanne Ferdinands
Different types of virtualization solutions for a business

A virtualisation solution refers to a software or hardware technology that enables the creation and operation of virtual instances or environments within a physical computing infrastructure. It allows multiple virtual machines (also known as VMs) or virtualised servers to run on a single physical server or a cluster of servers, sharing the underlying hardware resources.

 

These types of solutions provide an abstraction layer that separates the virtual instances from the physical hardware, allowing greater flexibility, scalability and efficiency in deploying and managing IT infrastructure. They make it possible to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single physical server, leading to improved resource utilisation, cost savings and simplified management. With the high cost of hardware like Dell and Lenovo laptops in Sri Lanka, this is a very cost-effective solution for businesses.

 

What are the different types of virtualisation solutions used in business?

In the business environment, several types of virtualisation solutions are commonly used to streamline operations, enhance efficiency and optimise resource utilisation. Here are some of the key solutions used in a business setting:

 

Server virtualisation: This is a technology that allows multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical server. It abstracts the underlying hardware resources, such as CPU, memory, storage and networking and creates virtualised instances that can run different operating systems and applications independently.

 

Benefits include:

·      Increased server utilisation: This enables better utilisation of server resources by consolidating multiple VMs onto a single physical server. This reduces hardware costs, power consumption and data centre space.

·      Cost savings: By reducing the number of physical servers needed, it helps businesses save on hardware acquisition, maintenance, cooling and power expenses.

·      Improved disaster recovery: Virtual machines can be easily backed up, replicated and restored, which simplifies the disaster recovery process. Snapshots and replication mechanisms enable faster recovery times and minimise downtime in case of hardware failures and system crashes.

·      Scalability and flexibility: They provide businesses with the flexibility to scale their IT infrastructure easily. New VMs can be provisioned quickly and resources can be dynamically allocated or adjusted to meet changing workload demands.

·      Enhanced testing and development: It allows the creation of an isolated test environment, making it easier and safer to test new applications, configurations and updates without affecting the production environment.

·      Simplified management: These platforms offer centralised management interfaces that provide control and visibility over the enter virtualised infrastructure. Administrators can efficiently monitor, provision and manage VMs from a single interface.

 

Some challenges include:

·      Performance overheads: There can be a slight performance overhead due to the virtualisation layer, although advancements in hardware and virtual technologies have significantly reduced this impact and most applications run effectively in these environments.

·      Resource contention: Multiple VMs sharing the same physical resources can lead to resource contention. If not properly managed, this contention can result in performance degradation. Proper resource allocation, monitoring and capacity planning are essential to mitigate this challenge.

·      Complexity: Managing such environments can be very complex, especially as the number of VMs increases. Administrators need to have the right expertise in these technologies, networking, and storage to effectively configure, monitor and troubleshoot.

·      Backup and recovery considerations: Although virtual machines offer improved backup and recovery options, there can be challenges in managing large-scale backups and ensuing sufficient storage capacity for VM backups and snapshots.

·      Security risks: It introduces additional security consideration. If not properly configured and secured, vulnerabilities in the virtual layer or compromised VMs can potentially impact the security of the entire infrastructure.

 

Despite these challenges, the benefits of server virtualisation make it a widely adopted technology for businesses of all sizes. With proper planning design and management, the challenges associated with it can be effectively addressed.

 

Desktop Virtualisation: A virtual desktop refers to a technology that enables the creation and delivery of desktop environments to end-users over a network. Instead of running an operating system and applications directly on a physical computer, users access their desktops remotely through a thin client device, a web browser or a virtual desktop client software installed on their local device.

 

In this type of environment, the user’s desktop, including the operating system, applications and data, runs on a server in a data centre or cloud infrastructure. The server hosts multiple virtual desktops, each isolated and independent of one another. When a user accesses their desktop, they are presented with a complete experience that they can customise and personalise, just like a traditional physical computer.

 

Advantages:

·      Centralised management: Its administrators can manage and maintain the environment centrally, simplifying tasks like software updates, patch management and security configurations, as changes can be applied to all virtual desktops from a single location.

·      Better security: Since the desktop environment resides on a server in a controlled data centre, they help improve security. Data remains centralised, reducing the risk of data lost or unauthorised access from stolen or lost devices. Additionally, they can be easily isolated and secured, minimising the impact of malware or security breaches.

·      Scalability: They allow businesses to easily scale their desktop infrastructure by adding or removing machines (or instances) based on demand. This scalability makes it efficient to accommodate fluctuating user requirements, such as seasonal workloads or remote workforce expansions.

·      Cost savings: With the high cost of hardware like Dell laptops in Sri Lanka, these solutions can reduce hardware costs as less powerful and cheaper endpoints, such as thin clients or repurposed older devices, can be used to access the desktop environment. Centralised management also reduced IT support costs and simplified hardware upgrades.

·      Workforce mobility and remote access: They enable users to access their desktops from various devices, including laptops, tablets or smartphones. This provides workforce mobility and allows remote access, supporting flexible work arrangements and remote collaboration.

 

One thing to remember is that these virtual desktops require a robust backend infrastructure in order to support the concurrent user sessions and prove a responsive user experience. Network connectivity and bandwidth considerations are crucial for delivering a seamless experience, especially when accessed remotely. In addition, it is also good to have good security solutions through an experienced firewall provider in Sri Lanka.

 

Application virtualisation: This is a technology that allows applications to be abstracted from the underlying operating system and encapsulated into self-contained units called virtualised application packages or containers. These can then be run on different operating systems without the need for traditional installation or modification of the host operating system.

 

How it works:

·      Application packaging: The application is packaged along with its dependencies and components into a virtualised package. This package contains all the necessary files, libraries, registry settings and configuration data required for the application to run.

·      Isolation: The package is isolated from the underlying operating system and other applications on the host machine. It operates within its own virtual environment, separate from the host, which helps prevent conflicts between applications and ensures that changes made by the application do not affect the host.

·      On-demand delivery: The package is typically delivered and executed on-demand when needed by the end-user. It can be streamed or downloaded to the client device, allowing users to run it without a traditional installation process.

·      Runtime environment: When the virtualise application is launched, a runtime environment is activated. This layer intercepts the application’s interactions with the host, file system, registry and network, redirecting them to the appropriate resource within the package.

 

Network virtualisation: This is a technology that abstracts network resources such as switches, routers, firewalls and load balances, from the underlying physical network infrastructure. It enables the creation of virtual networks that are independent of the physical hardware, providing businesses with greater flexibility, agility and control over their network environments.

 

How they work:

·      Abstraction of network resources: They separate the control plane and data plane of the network, abstracting the resources from the physical infrastructure. This abstraction allows multiple virtual networks to coexist on the same physical network.

·      Virtual networks: They are created within the virtualisation layer and are logically isolated from each other, with each network having its own virtualised devices, IP addressing, routing and security policies.

·      Overlay networks: They often utilise overlay networks, where virtual network traffic is encapsulated within packets that traverse the physical infrastructure This encapsulation allows the virtual network to be extended across physical boundaries, including data centres, campuses or cloud environments.

·      Software defined networking (SDN): It is often implemented using SDN principles, where the network control is centralised and programmable through software controllers. SDN allows businesses to dynamically configure and manage virtual networks, providing agility and automation in provisioning and management.

 

Benefits include:

·      Enhanced flexibility and agility.

·      Improved resource utilisation.

·      Simplified network management.’

·      Network segmentation and isolation.

·      Scalability and elasticity.

·      Multi-tenancy.

 

Storage virtualisation: This is a technology that abstracts physical storage resources and presents them as a single, virtualised storage pool. It allows businesses to combine and manage multiple storage devices, such as hard drives, solid state drives or NAS systems, as a unified storage resource.

 

Here’s how they work:

·      Abstraction: It separates the logical view of storage from the physical infrastructure, as well as the storage devices and creates a virtual layer that sits between the physical storage and the system that accesses it.

·      Storage pool: Within the layer, the physical storage devices are aggregated into a single, virtualised storage pool. This can span multiple devices from different vendors or models, including DAS, NAS or SAN devices.

·      Centralised management: It provides a centralised management interface that allows administrators to view and manage the storage pool as a cohesive entity. It simplifies tasks such as provisioning, data migration, capacity management and resource allocation.

·      Advanced features and data services: It often offers advanced features and data services, such as snapshotting, replication, thin provisioning, deduplication and encryption.

 

Data virtualisation: This refers to a technology that enables the integration, abstraction and delivery of data from various sources unto a unified and virtual data layer. It allows businesses to access and query data from disparate sources, such as database, applications, cloud services and APIs, as if it were a single, cohesive data source.

 

Benefits include:

·      Data integration and federation.

·      Real time data access.

·      Data agility and flexibility.

·      Simplified data governance and security.

·      Cost efficiency.

·      Agile analytics and business intelligence.

 

These types of virtualisation solutions play a vital role in modern businesses by optimising infrastructure, reducing costs, improving resource allocation, enhancing security and enabling greater agility in meeting changing business demands.


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Roxanne Ferdinands
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