Lucas Searle Lucas Searle is the Virtualisation Lead for Microsoft UK. He has worked in IT for over 15 years and gained experience with several telecom companies and hosting partners.
Question: We’re keen to cut our overheads and maximise the ROI on our server technology. Media reports suggest virtualisation is something we should explore with a view to making savings and getting more value from our server population, which has grown dramatically in recent years. We’d welcome your advice for medium-sized operations like ours. - Mike
Answer: Hi Mike. In the current economy, you’re wise to keep your IT costs to a minimum and virtualisation is certainly one way to wring more from your budget. But first let me explain briefly how it works and why it’s good for mid-sized companies like yours.
Virtualisation uses software to create virtual machines (VM) that imitate a physical computer, thereby creating a separate operating system environment that’s logically separate from the host server. By providing multiple VMs, it lets you run several operating systems and programs at the same time on a single physical machine.
Rather than forking out on rows of under-utilised servers, each devoted to a specific task, server virtualisation lets you group those workloads on a much smaller number of more fully-used machines. The result is a much better return on your hardware investment, and it saves you further money because it requires less management, consumes less energy, and takes up far less space. Companies who’ve virtualised their systems regularly report IT savings of 20% and above.
Cost savings - and operational benefits
But that’s by no means the whole story. Having slashed your hardware costs, virtualisation also brings operational benefits by making your IT setup more agile - for instance, by making software back-up, business continuity, testing and development much more straightforward. Not least, it will reduce your company’s carbon footprint because you’ll need less space and power for your servers.
Virtualisation will also allow you to deploy new services faster and more economically, and since your IT no longer depends on individual dedicated servers, you can put new business ideas into practice using new software on existing hardware. It also means you can trial new software on a virtualised server before you release it to your entire estate, thereby reducing risk, expense - and the load on your IT staff.
If I’ve already managed to whet your appetite for virtualisation, then I’d recommend you take a look at Windows Server 2008 R2, which includes Hyper-V; or you might like to explore Hyper-V Server 2008, our basic hypervisor (software that lets you run multiple operating systems on one piece of hardware).
It’s important to remember, however, that virtualising your servers doesn’t remove the need to manage them. Ideal for this purpose is System Centre Essentials which includes a Virtual Machine Manager. Using a single console, it allows you to manage a broad range of tasks across your physical and virtual servers, clients, hardware, software and IT services - and gives you one unified experience.
Nor is that the end of the story. You can virtualise your PCs so that they run using the computing power of your servers, too. This will help extend the life of your hardware as well as making it easier to deploy the likes of Windows 7 and Office 2010 without impacting some of those old Excel tools that the finance team built on previous versions of Office!
Translating virtualisation into ROI
As you can see, virtualised servers offer tangible cost savings over rack upon rack of under-used tin. The financial case is easily built:
- Virtualisation minimises hardware costs.
- Virtualisation drives business agility and flexibility. As well as allowing your company to apply IT wherever it is needed, deploying computing resources onto real-world business challenges as they arise, this also means that the cost and benefit of IT to each line of business application can be better measured and justified.
- Finally, as with most IT infrastructure investments, the deployment costs are loaded at the front end. To ease this challenge, flexible financing like Microsoft’s Extended Payment Terms can help reduce your initial outlay, extend the payment period and defer costs. In today’s uncertain economy, it means you drive IT efficiencies without needing to find extra funding.
To sum up, I’d urge you to consider virtualisation as an effective way to cut your costs and streamline your IT. By consolidating your servers, reducing your energy consumption and speeding up your desktop deployment, virtualisation will undoubtedly help you save money. Your nearest Microsoft Partner will be able to guide you further on the technology and your best buying options.
I hope this will inspire you to explore the technology even further. Best of luck, Lucas.