Virtualization – Time for Genuine New Thinking

We begin a four part series on virtualization.  It’s the concept of one–to–many.  One physical CPU behaving as if it were several distinct processing units or computers.

Broadcast Newsroom Computing a little later examines the business benefits of an innovation whose time has come.  However to tease you, I know one broadcaster who already turned to virtual machines for efficiency and cost reduction.

I used virtual machines for many years and still toy with them from time to time.  I realized early the benefits of virtualization for broadcast newsroom computing.  It gave me the single bit of control I had in one of my previous jobs.  I managed them to a point where they were merely a second thought so other problems burned my attention.

This series might seem only directed toward those fascinated with information technology.  However, BNC strives to make the seemingly complex simple.  Sun Microsystems VirtualBox defines virtualization as one computer operating system running on top of another operating system.  BNC will come back to Sun and VirtualBox later in the series as well.  And we will explain why you want to run one operating system on another.

Why do I consider virtualization genuine new thinking?  Well here’s an anecdote.

In that previous job I was responsible for, conservatively, 21 traveling servers spread across two continents, running three different operating systems including Linux.  There were three or more different client server applications and each required some advanced networking.  Sounds complex but virtualization simplified it for me.  It was standard networking made user friendly and idiot proof even though the applications were complex because control of other machines and protocols were involved.

I tested and then deployed virtual machines to handle the Linux operating system which could live on top of eight Windows 2003 servers.  Now instead of 21 servers and related hardware problems I had 13 physical servers and the same level of service provided by the twenty-one.  Let’s make it clear, I reduced my hardware responsibilities by more than a third without loss in quality of service. 

I would upgrade a single Linux virtual machine and then copy it to seven other servers.  Again, I reduced my workload of upgrades somewhere between 80 and 50 per cent.

Honestly in the end my responsibilities were quite under control.  I had ability to respond to requests immediately and easily by copying virtual machines and images of other servers.  The fear those who used the systems would cause me massive rebuilds and upgrades was tamed.  My workload was reduced at least 50 per cent.  I saved  more than 33 per cent in hardware costs and much more in my time and sanity.

Wikipedia has a complicated definition of virtualization and I cite it to explain the topic can be complex because its true potential, I believe, is yet to be realized.  However it’s concept is simple and only requires genuine new thinking to see the math that brings the benefits noted in the above anecdote.

BNC tomorrow examines claims from the big three vendors of virtualization.

James Rowe

Rowe and Company

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