Monday, January 11, 2010

Server Consolidation

Why use virtual servers

Consolidation is a great means of cost efficiency.
Services in the past were distributed to various hosts for reliability. But systems are more reliable now; consolidating services to one box saves you hardware costs, power, cooling and most of all space (with the size of my server room I’d do anything to save space).

Especially when you need multiple machines to performing tasks which do not require dedicated hardware, virtual machines can share resources. Server are often sitting on 5% CPU utilization, there is no joy in that. And there are many incentives for a SA to use virtual machines they are quickly cloned, you can keep handy snapshots to restore the VM at anytime, machines can quickly be migrated from server to server.
With the use of a SAN a virtual cluster can be built, the virtual machine being the state of the server can reach this global file system from any hardware, in the event of a hardware failure you simply need to restore you virtual appliance to a running server, while you mend / upgrade the faulty one. On a traditional rack mounted server it would be quite a different procedure to deal with this situation.

Now you’re enabled to make the most of your hardware and you’ve greater readiness towards recoverability.
Certain hardware considerations need to be made for you to be able to make the most of your virtualization platform. Keep in mind you’re not purchasing hardware for a regular server, you’re purchasing hardware for a host server, which will share its resources amongst several guest server. All the disk and network infrastructure, the CPU cores etc will contribute to a greater performance.

Virtualization Platform

VMware’s ESX server is an excellent enterprise level server software, that can deliver great performance since it doesn’t need to be installed over an operating system, it is the operating system, hence giving you bare metal.

Microsoft is relatively new in this province and has been catching up, they only began in 2003 after they acquired Connectix.
However with the release of Hyper-V in windows server 2008 Microsoft’s virtual platform is of greater significance, without the Hyper-V the virtual machine was sitting right on top on the host operating system. Hyper-V is the layer isolating the guest operating system and at time even allowing them to interact directly with the host hardware. Though I prefer using VMware over Microsoft virtual server, the interface is much simpler and it has better support for Unix operating systems. I recently had the opportunity of using virtual server, it came free with a subscription to Microsoft’s ISV program. I was struggling to find basic features which are to easily and quickly manipulated with the use of VMware.

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