What Is Virtualization?

By | Jan 8, 2013

Virtualization is defined as creating something virtually rather than actually. It's a vague definition for a vague term. Virtualization, at its most basic level, removes physical barriers from the requirements of IT infrastructure, allowing for more flexibility and agility. For IT in midsize businesses, it can make a significant difference in the overall cost of IT infrastructure. Jumping on the virtualization bandwagon, however, without determining where and how virtualization can work to improve your IT, can be dangerous.

What is Virtualization and How Does It Differ from Cloud Technology?

Virtualization is a companion buzzword to cloud technology, but virtualization can encompass more than just cloud services. Cloud services are only one component of virtualization; a variety of additional resources can be virtualized.

So, what is virtualization? Virtualization is a way of meeting goals to improve efficiency while enhancing the scalability of an operation. Any component of IT can be virtualized, from application and operating systems to networks and data storage to client services and development.

Why Consider Virtualization?

The key benefits of virtualization include increased efficiency, better mobility, improved collaboration, and more responsiveness, which can benefit IT infrastructure in a number of ways:

Server Consolidation

Maintaining servers is costly and does not offer any scalability. One of the most popular forms of virtualization is server virtualization, which allows you to more efficiently manage your network without falling victim to "server sprawl."

Reduced Energy Consumption

The cost of keeping servers operational and cool is often a major hidden cost of IT, one that virtualization can eliminate or significantly reduce.

Improved Backup & Recovery

Rather than having to back up, restore, and recover individual machines, virtual machines can be rapidly recovered and will not be impacted by hardware failures.

Supporting IT Infrastructure

Whether you have older applications you cannot afford to replace or you are a Mac-driven office in need of an occasional Windows environment, virtualization can provide you with an affordable solution that doesn't interfere with your ability to move forward.

Virtualization can help IT in midsize business reduce costs and improve service levels, but there are factors that must be considered. Virtualization is still relatively new, so there are risks that come with shifting away from a physical environment that you control. If your business will have to invest in high-priced software or significant storage space, you will need to consider ROI and determine whether or not the cost is recoverable.

Implementing Virtualization

Regardless of what area or component you are virtualizing, from software or hardware to server optimization and integration and data migration, start by evaluating the benefits of virtualization. Analyze your current operation and identify where virtualization might create cost savings. Research the available virtualization software platforms and services to determine which best suits your needs, evaluating the software against your use cases. Finally, migrate to your virtualized environment. There are migration solutions available to make the transition easier, and developing a project plan will ensure that all the necessary steps are controlled along the way.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.