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Essential Virtualization Tips

Server virtualization means converting physical servers into logical ones and running on less hardware. The concept is simple: use less energy, buy less server hardware, AND gain stability and reliability.  It’s the last part where amateurs stumble and customers get hurt.

Like everything in business, start with what you need regardless of technology and then research and pick a vendor based on that criteria. That ISP (aren’t they in the business of providing Internet access?) who touts financial stability in spite of having gone out of business three times, is likely not a fit for many reasons. Server virtualization requires knowledge of storage, networking, and migration.

Here are some tips to save you time, energy, and money:

  1. Follow the rules. Just because you can convert just about any physical server to virtual, doesn’t mean you should. Your whitebox and 32bit knowledge needs an upgrade to certified hardware and x64 (yes you need TOE for the NICs too).  Many manufacturers don’t support virtualization or only in certain configurations. Special functions like firewalls simply should not be virtualized. Just because it will run, doesn’t let you escape the fact you have no support for a problem. With channel inventory crunches like now, you could be waiting 30 days for replacement hardware, not to mention the cost of reinstalling and restoring on physical iron with all the business downtime. Even hardened gamblers cringe at such risk.
  2. Think in twos. You should have at least two physical hosts, two more switches for a separate network, and replicated storage. A major point of server virtualization is to add reliability so it is easier to recover from failures. However, many uninformed and unscrupulous vendors will sell only one physical host because it is cheap and easy. If that one server crashes, you’re out of business and worse off than if you had physical boxes because at least something would be running. If your data is stored on the same box, restoring is longer and more complicated.
  3. Invest in storage. Another major concept to understand is separation of processing and storage. This approach is how things like domain controllers on different physical hosts and Live Migration give greater up time. Get a Storage Attached Network (SAN) for multi-path data transfer and fiber is not required. While virtualization is a good time to escape tape and think about data replication,  DO NOT get a legacy Network Attached Storage (NAS) as it provides no advantage for speed or growth versus a traditional physical server. Again, many crafty providers will sell only one physical host and lease a NAS for backup because it is cheap and easy. The danger for customers is that as the virtual servers that include data grow, response slows and the huge hundred plus gigabyte virtual images are difficult to backup or restore. When you add the typical outsourced solution from India with no access for customers to verify backup or restore their own files, the captured high cost and low viability is more than insult to injury.
  4. Save on software too. Microsoft HyperV now dominates the market, has as many or more features, and costs less than alternatives. Plus, with each Windows Server Enterprise license, you get 4 free Windows Server standard licenses. Those myths about poor security and limited features have really hurt the competition. Windows Server Core had 19 patches (full Windows Server 34) last year versus 168 VMWare updates. Server Core is 73MB versus VMWare 4GB and features like Live Migration have eliminated any third-party advantages.

Starting in 1996, Matrixforce began providing virtualization which at that time was largely limited to terminal services. Fast forward to today, Matrixforce is the exclusive certified Advanced Infrastructure and Enterprise Storage provider in Oklahoma. Since we’re unconcerned with selling product or billable hours, we would welcome the opportunity to help you make an informed virtualization decision. Contact us at (918) 622-1167 Option 3 or e-mail to review needs or schedule a demo.

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