Beyond cost: Great reasons for virtualization

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There are several benefits of server virtualization that are not directly related to cost. Having a greater feeling of security about company data during a disaster is one.

Industry experts continually tout cost savings as a key factor fueling the trend toward server virtualization, and a recent VMware-sponsored survey found that 70 percent of IT managers who made the switch did so to avoid the cost of buying large amounts of hardware.

But there are also many other benefits, such as a greater control of recovering system and application quickly from a disaster, better protection of data, the flexibility to free up IT administration tasks and shift them for important projects and the ability to quickly respond to business demands rather than performing routine maintenance tasks.

Spending less time on drills and tests and provisioning new application faster is a benefit of virtualization that has provided IT departments with the breathing room needed to focus on innovations that meet real business needs.

So, let’s take a look at a few real-world examples, abstracted from VMware interviews with customers, of companies benefiting from more than cost savings with virtualization.

Business continuity

The IT staff at Acorda Therapeutics, a biotech company with nearly 400 employees, used to spend entire weekends testing disaster-recovery plans to meet federal safety guidelines. But a recovery manager project significantly reduced the time needed to conduct drills, said Josh Bauer, Acorda’s senior manager for network operations.

In test environments, recovery managers function just as they would in actual emergencies, allocating server resources and performing other tasks automatically. By contrast, replicating files to a failover site in systems that are not virtualized can take an average of 40 hours.

Also, recovery managers allow IT personnel to run drills remotely. “Now, with SRM [VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager], we can do it from our own homes and just create a test right then and there,” Bauer said. “Within hours, it’s up and running.”

Simplified IT management

When George Reed was hired as chief information officer at Seven Corners travel insurance, he soon learned the company was being powered by 140 desktop machines functioning as servers.

“The Smithsonian Institution kind of wanted their stuff back,” Reed joked in a recent video.

virtualize

Virtualization helps many organizations create straightforward roadmaps for recovering data following a disaster. Credit: VMware

The antiquated setup simply could not handle the workload of a company that had experienced 10 consecutive years of double-digit growth. A major insurance servicing application that Seven Corners relied on was constantly crashing as a result, Reed said.

Although most desktops aren’t designed to run around-the-clock, most servers are specifically designed to run constantly and withstand higher temperatures.

So Reed made virtualization a priority to equip Seven Corners with a more reliable IT environment and reduce the amount of time spent on day-to-day maintenance.

Reed ultimately slashed the time required to set up a new server from four-to-five days to four-to-five minutes, significantly reducing IT labor costs and boosting productivity.

As Seven Corners continued to modernize, it made further investments in VMware products — vCloud Director and vShield — to support an environment that is 100-percent virtualized.

Enhanced business responsiveness

CharterCARE Health Partners, a Rhode Island-based healthcare provider employing more than 500 doctors, relied on its virtualized environment to expand the number of computers that practitioners could use to access patient files, said Mike Marseglia, the company’s network engineer.

“We’re able to provision desktops quickly and provide them for our most critical business applications, such as our electronic medical records,” he said.

Being able to scale up or down quickly has become particularly important in the healthcare industry, which is undergoing a period of consolidation amid reforms and efforts to lower costs. Healthcare providers are looking to digital solutions, such as electronic health records, to deliver the efficiencies they’re seeking.

Different companies, shared business concerns

These are specific examples of virtualization ROI that will, no doubt, differ from your company’s set of challenges. But consider the commonalities: the need to automate processes and make IT infrastructure accessible, scalable and secure. You are likely to also share those needs.

The companies referenced here have chosen VMware vSphere as a starting point. It’s a platform on which additional virtualization solutions can be built. Maybe if you want to explore whether your company should, too, you can start by checking out VMware’s virtualization home page for more details.

Nick Clunn is an award-winning journalist who has worked for several websites and daily newspapers, including The Record in New Jersey. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at Montclair State University. Follow him @NickClunn.

Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn is a journalist covering the tech beat and an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. He lives in New Jersey, where he had worked as a staff writer for several leading daily newspapers and websites.
Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn
Tags: Data Center,IT Security,Technology,Virtualization
  • abc

    what is virtualization?

  • http://www.bdna.com Errol Neal

    Why is this news? This sounds like it was taken from the pages of an article in some random tech paper in 2006.

  • Michelle Fisher

    Whenever I see words such as “reduce the amount of time spent on day-to-day maintenance” and “significantly reducing IT labor costs and boosting productivity.” — what I hear echoing in my head is “we were able to fire some more IT people without giving anyone else a raise”
    .

    Upper management, who have nothing to do with the “increasing productivity” are, of course, the ones who get the saved cash bonuses and stock options while those still left are doing more work for no more money. That’s what “increased productivity” actually means.

    Not that this observation is going to change anything, but when most of the workers don’t have work any more, who’s going to buy any product?

    • Another side of the coin

      Day to day routines are painful. Creativity and productivity goes side by side, and that is how mankind advances. Everyone wants to do less for more, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to do less. This is the American dream and the universe is big enough for that. If most of the workers don’t have work any more, the society have failed on one thing: the education.

  • J

    Why are the downsides to this way of doing things not mentioned? Sure, recovering data is easier after a disaster. But it’s also very likely that the disaster wouldn’t have been widespread had everything not been virtual. When everybody is using virtual environments on their machines, then if the servers go down, everybody else goes down with it. Whereas if the servers go down in a non-virtual environment, then people still have access to their work and files.

  • Todd

    I have 20 years in the IT business as a consultant and the move to virtualization is basically a net zero change if you are smart and sort of lucky. What companies fail to realize is just because it is virtualized and run by some vendor, it still must be managed. Only now instead of calling the hardware vendor or software vendor to only get bad service, run around and pay a ton in maintenence fees, you are calling AWS, HP, IBM or EMC insert IaaS or PaaS providor name here and still get the run around, bad service and pay tons of fees.
    And the cost needs to be meticulously checked because unlike just buying some Big Iron and its maintenance which is a predictable cost, the nickle and dime pay by the second for every small thing fees you get from visualization providers can end up being even more expensive.

    The mistake made is companies really need to step back from the one solution fits all problems mentality, which has always been a pervasive problem. Some companies are large enough that buying your own hardware and having a datacenter is justified. Some are small enough to justify the same. Many companies have IP and other risk that justifies keeping some functions in house simply to avoid liability because you can be certain Amazon, HP, IBM, EMC and all the rest WILL NOT be the ones sued and or jailed if data is lost, IP is stolen, PII is stolen, creditcards are taken. Sure they might have some so called guarantees but in the end, when there are lawyers, bureaucrats and prosecutors involved, they will not care about your visualization.

    I have yet to see a single client get the expectations from IaaS, PaaS or virtualization to the larger services. SaaS has been ok and companies like rackspace, ok because that is just facilities. This is not to say its a bad idea, just expectations that somehow virtualization is cheaper or magically perfect and needs zero management of it, is the problem.

    For those few who understand virtualization simply means their IT people can focus are more lucrative and specialized solutions for a company, rather than being dedicated to supporting servers.

    Try a combination of both Cloud services for hardware and basic server services like app and database servers mixed with a managed service provider. Now your few IT people, who you have understaffed get to watch the MS and IaaS providers blame each other for problems or continuously pass the buck back and forth.

    If you are a company planning to move to virtualization do so, but dont do it because you think you can reduce complexity, costs or staff. You are adding just as much complexity to manage it as before and the staff you need will need to manage them and be more specialized.