By: Ian Campbell
As with all emerging technologies, the first flurry of activity is usually at the high-end, where large enterprises have the IT resources, the budget and the economies of scale to justify an investment in something new. If there are financial benefits to be made on an investment, they are the organisations most likely to reap them most quickly.
As the virtualisation market has matured, however, the technology has trickled down to middle and even small-sized firms. The good news is that, by the time it's available for them to buy, the solution is usually well-defined in terms of the benefits they can expect and easier to implement.Early adopters have suffered the pain in the first wave of deployments.
Virtualisation is all about consolidation, reducing the number of servers by hosting multiple application and operating systems on a single physical box. The first decision is what to move. Vendors and their channel partners have capacity planning tools to assess physicals servers and their suitability for virtualisation.
"With a capacity assessment you put software in that monitors the servers for around 30 days. You end up with a report that will tell you how many you can consolidate down to. We take the numbers and turn them into a bill of materials and make the business case," said Jimmy Keogh, director of sales at Datapac.
Informing the business of the appropriate consolidation ratio is the key part of the process. VMware claimed it could now move 40 servers to a single box, but this is a theoretical high and unrealistic for most organisations.
"The reality is usually closer to between 15 and 20," said Keogh, but warned that it was not prescriptive. "If someone is running a line of business SAP database, they may just do a one-on-one but still put it on a virtual platform to get better availability."
Ergo's Frazer Furlong said ratios were a classic "how long is a piece of string" question. " It depends on the specification of the box you are buying and what are you looking to virtualise in terms of its workload. It could be anywhere between four and 18 to one."
After the audit, the next question is how to implement. This will always depend on the business and its specific requirements, according to HP's Mark McKeon. "It's still quite customised and very much depends on the customer set-up. There are no hard and fast rules."
Some basic principles apply, however. No one starts by moving business critical apps and infrastructure. 'The low hanging fruit are those applications and services where the servers are under-utilised," said Furlong.
When an organisation was looking to consolidate up to 20 servers, Keogh recommended a " big bang approach", doing it all at once. These days, he said, most virtualisation projects were relatively straightforward. "As long as the applications you have are mainstream there will be reference architecture to tell you how to do it."
For others, a phased strategy may be the best approach, moving one server and piece of shared storage at a time. In many ways it is harder for large companies with 200 servers and an allegiance to lTIL-type management methodologies. "When they virtualise all those rulebooks go out the window.
That's why they start with the servers that the IT people use and then move on to general infrastructure. The last thing they will do is line of business applications because the owners of those apps want you to prove the case before you come to them," said Keogh.
Microsoft covers all implementation scenarios and works in partnership with server companies like Dell and HP. They deliver fully bundled configurations to meet specific throughput and performance requirements, pre-validated and quick to deploy.
Server business group lead Ronan Geraghty said that the main aim was to meet the customers' needs. "You can swap out everything or do it a piece at a time, running part-physical and part virtualised systems. You make the transition more slowly, running new workloads in a virtualised environment."
Click here to read about virtualisation solutions from Ergo.
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