Long gone are those days when companies depended on massive physical infrastructure hardware like memory, network cards, chips, and processing and storage resources. Virtual infrastructure helps companies of all scale leverage these tools with fewer costs and many other significant advantages.
This article shall look into virtualization and how managing it correctly will help companies scale up significantly.
In the physical infrastructure, we dedicate every server to a specific purpose. But the server may not be used to its full capacity. With virtualization, we can add more functionality to a single server and use it more efficiently. This migration reduces the maintenance and electricity costs of the additional server. With virtualization, we can run multiple virtual machines on a single hardware operating system.
Now how can we run multiple virtual machines on single hardware? The answer is Hypervisor. A software that can run virtual machines on top of hardware or as a hosted software. Let’s find out more!
When it comes to hypervisors, the are two different types we have to look at:
- Bare-metal Hypervisor. It runs directly on the hardware. These hypervisors have their operating system, and they are known for their stability and performance.
- Hosted Hypervisor. It runs inside the operating system. So these have an extra layer of software beneath them when compared to bare-metal Hypervisors. These perform well in restricted and small environments.
Hypervisors are present on top of a computer (operating system) or installed directly onto the server. Hypervisors allocate the physical resources to the virtual machines as they need so that they can work efficiently. Whenever a user or program requests additional resources, the Hypervisor will send a request to the physical hardware. And the changes will save locally.
A virtual machine can be treated as a data file. This data file can be moved from one computer to another and simultaneously work on both.
Types of virtualization:
- Data Virtualization. It provides us with data from various resources devoid of its format and source for users and applications to use.
- Desktop Virtualization. It’s sometimes called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. With VDI, users can access all their files and applications on any computer.
- Server Virtualization. With server virtualization, the physical hardware servers are divided into virtual servers. These virtual servers can operate multiple Operating Systems (OS).
- Operating System Virtualization. We can run multiple OS such as Windows and Linux on multiple virtual machines.
- Network Virtualization. With network virtualization, we can combine multiple hardware networks into a single network called a software-based network and the reverse is also possible.
Physical vs. Virtual Infrastructure
We can have multiple Virtual Machines running on a single physical device using the virtual infrastructure. Instead of allocating a single task to a machine, we can allocate multiple.
As with the OS, we can install different types of OS in virtual machines. We can install a hosted hypervisor and run Linux OS on the virtual machine.
A virtual infrastructure can mean you have numerous servers and physical resources in a server room to store your business data in an enterprise setting.
Benefits of Virtual Infrastructures
- Efficiency. Virtual infrastructures make the most efficient use of the physical hardware. Because the virtual machine uses the resources whenever it needs. So some machines are active at times, and others are not. This efficiency will directly result in less wastage.
- Development and Testing. With the ease of use the virtual machines provide to us with operating systems and application installing, we can easily leverage this on improving both development and testing.
- Scalable. Virtual servers adapt according to the company’s needs. They got built on the concept of what you use is what you pay.
- Flexible. It allows for multiple server and networking configurations compared to a hardwired physical infrastructure, which requires more capital and effort to change. Virtual machines are easily portable so that you can move them between servers without problems.
- Secure. Virtual infrastructure provides us with double security. All the traffic has to go through physical infrastructure first, and then there is additional security between the virtual machines. The security barrier that comes with the separation of virtual machines keeps the system devoid of bugs and viruses.
- Load balancing. The soft-ware based server balances the load given to the devices. The load gets distributed equally so that no machine gets more load than the other.
- Backup and recovery. If there is a physical infrastructure failure, we have to wait until the system is revived and running again. Virtual machine backups assure us of quick and efficient recovery.
More About Virtual Infrastructure Management
As we have seen, there are many benefits from virtual infrastructure when compared to physical infrastructure – many companies are migrating to the virtual infrastructure. Now, we shall see how we can manage this infrastructure to get the maximum out of it.
Planning and Design
Many companies make the mistake of not planning well enough before migrating to virtualization. Every area of the company will somehow or the other be affected by the virtual infrastructure migration. Only the administrators and architects are held responsible for planning and design. This approach can lead to further roadblocks in the functioning of the company.
Critical members from every team must be involved in the design process, and everyone should see how the migration affects their team and suggest insights. This design will help smooth functioning even after the migration to the virtual infrastructure.
Efficient planning about the implementation of the infrastructure is also equally important. It may seem tempting to implement everything at once since virtual infrastructure provides us with the new OS, virtual machines, e.t.c. The idea doesn’t work out. A step-by-step plan can help us with implementing the infrastructure efficiently and correctly.
Performance and Capacity
We no longer need to check the performance of the infrastructure manually. Automated tools can help us in performance management, application management, and predictive recommendations. So, with the insights we get from the tools we can make decisions.
There are also many server management tools to monitor, track, and model and predict CPU, memory, network, and storage needs for your virtual environments. We can decide on hardware resources based on this analysis.
Virtual infrastructure greatly reduces the cost of storage. But the opposite is also true if it is not managed correctly. The virtual infrastructure uses shared networked storage. The migrated data centers always present on the shared networking storage—thousands of copies of data sitting idle on the repository.
The capacity needs should be planned correctly to avoid the wastage of the storage resources. The deduplication of data will help us greatly in reducing storage wastage.
Virtual sprawl is another major problem in virtual infrastructure management. The speed at which the servers are created is significantly reduced. This speed will lead to creating more and more virtual machines, and some are left in idle state and left unattended. This will directly place the server’s burden in the form of permissions, backups, upgrades, patches, and monitoring. If not monitored correctly, this will lead to a stall.
The solution to this problem is to have a request and approve the process. The management lifecycle should be monitored at all times. The idle virtual machines must be decommissioned immediately, and the storage must be allocated efficiently to the correct virtual machine so that the load is balanced.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
In virtual machines, we cannot load backup into everything. The backup gets loaded on to the shared physical resource. This resource backs up data of all the virtual machines that are running on its hardware. If there are more machines on a single machine, then the load is drastically increased on the hardware. This may lead to malfunction or even failure in the application. This can be taken care of by carefully keeping up with the management lifecycle. The load must be carefully observed so that the backup doesn’t get choked. Otherwise, we could lose so much data in a matter of minutes.
… So, as we’ve seen in this article, virtualization has a lot of advantages that can be leveraged if managed correctly. And we’ve also talked step by step about what is virtualization, types, virtual vs physical infrastructure, benefits of virtual infrastructure, and how we can manage virtual infrastructure for maximum benefits.
Fancy giving virtual infrastructure management a try? You can find more information about our virtualization solutions here (Plesk VPS) and here (SolusIO). Drop us a line in the comment section below if you like to share your experience with virtualization with us. Until next time!