Computer technology is advancing at a tremendous pace, with computing capacity doubling roughly every two years. This huge increase in processing power means that many modern servers are underutilized, as the applications and services they run do not fully consume available resources. In fact, many servers routinely operate at anywhere between 2% and 10% of their processing load, yet IT Administrators are reluctant to combine applications into one server because key applications can interact in unfriendly ways, resulting in reduced reliability and increased unscheduled downtime.
Virtualization addresses this need by allowing multiple applications to share one physical server resource while eliminating the interaction between them.
In a traditional server, the hardware is controlled by an abstraction layer made up of device drivers, which in turn are controlled by the operating system. Your applications (such as a mail or database server) run on top of the operating system, which they use to communicate both with the server’s hardware and with other devices on the network, including your computer. In this case, one errant application can cause the operating system to fail, bringing the whole server down.
In a virtualized server, a special layer of software, called a hypervisor, is introduced. This layer sits between the device drivers and the operating system, and allows multiple copies of the operating system to run in parallel; however, each virtual server (often referred to as a ‘workload’) is separate, and is unaware of the existence of the others. Other than the fact that they share the same hardware, virtual servers are independent of each other as if they were separate physical servers.
Benefits of Virtualization
- Increased up-time. Keeping applications separate means that their interactions are reduced, thereby reducing as well one of the most common causes of unscheduled downtime. Even if an application fails and brings down its workload, others continue running unaffected.
- Efficiency and economy. By sharing a single piece of hardware across multiple workloads, you put more of your hardware investment to use and thus can achieve significant economic benefit, either by reducing the upfront investment or by providing substantially enhanced services, features and performance (such as high availability) for the same cost.
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