Virtualization has made a major impact in many small- and medium-sized businesses, and for good reason. Virtualization allows businesses to downsize their IT infrastructure and simplify their IT workload. Many organizations see significant cost savings from reductions in cooling, power, management overhead, and physical space needed.
Once an organization is virtualized, business owners and IT managers may ask themselves, “What’s next?” For many, the answer is the cloud. By taking advantage of private or hybrid cloud computing models, SMBs can add even greater effectiveness to IT management, provisioning, security, and scalability. The good news is that the virtualization infrastructure sets you up to make your transition to the cloud a smooth one.
Virtualization and Cloud Computing-How They’re Similar and How They’re Different
Some people use the terms “virtualization” and “cloud computing” synonymously. While it’s true that these two technologies are quite similar and that they provide many of the same benefits, they are not the same thing.
Both virtualization and cloud computing allow you to migrate virtual machines easily from machine to machine, which means that you can maximize server IT capacity while accommodating workloads and maintenance schedules. With this, you can test and deploy applications and updates quickly. Both also offer greater data security—you can directly manage which users and roles have access to certain information and applications, reducing the risks of data corruption and loss that exists when information is stored on individual machines.
That being said, there are certain key differences between the two technologies. It is possible to deploy virtualization without launching a private cloud solution and vice versa.
Virtualization refers to a simplification of infrastructure. Rather than having a one-to-one relationship between servers and the applications they run, one physical server can have many virtual machines that perform different functions. In this way, the number of physical machines needed is reduced.
Cloud computing, on the other hand, is a service that uses virtual architecture. You can think of it as a utility—you create centralized pools of information and resources that can then be delivered to the appropriate users. This allows you to give performance priority to the most critical applications and to make changes and updates on the fly.
The Next Logical Step – Private and Hybrid Clouds
After deploying a virtualization solution, many organizations find that the next logical step is a move to a private cloud.
A private cloud is exactly what it sounds like—information, applications, and cloud services are hosted and maintained within the organization: privately. Keeping things in-house reduces the traditional security risks and compliance issues associated with the public cloud while still delivering benefits like reduced costs and improved agility. IT teams can also monitor usage, uptime, and user access and make changes as necessary in real-time.
Still, though, you may need or want to access some of the scalable solutions offered by the public cloud. The good news is that you do not have to choose between the data-control benefits of the private cloud and the agility offered by the public cloud. You can deploy a hybrid cloud solution that is exactly tailored to your needs. This approach allows you to keep sensitive data or critical applications in-house while still taking advantage of outside vendor software-as-a-service solutions for specific tasks or for specific user groups.
As with virtualized servers, deployment of a private cloud should be done slowly—a step at a time. You may wish to experiment with virtualized content delivery on a small scale before rolling it out to your entire organization.
Investing in Your Organization’s Future
A well-designed virtualized environment will allow for agility to provision resources where they are needed and recover quickly from downtime or disaster. Hardware plays a large role in determining the success of your virtualization/cloud computing projects. If your employees are not able to access the resources they need in a timely manner, or if productivity suffers, your investment will not pay off. You need to invest in servers, networking equipment, and other tools that will allow for the highest levels of consolidation and performance without the need to continuously upgrade and swap out storage arrays and servers. SMBs can also save by investing in equipment that’s designed to conserve energy.
You should also take some time at the outset to define a standard catalogue of applications that end-users can access without assistance. This can help reduce the time and resources necessary to deploy and set-up permissions and configurations later.
You can also take advantage of security features like agentless security that carries virus and malware protection throughout the cloud without the need for the IT team to go around to each, individual machine. Additionally, you should look for a security system that will monitor your system and notify you of vulnerabilities before they become exploited.
Are you looking to deploy a private or hybrid cloud solution in conjunction with your current virtualization solution? What has been your experience?
Matt Smith works for Dell and has a passion for learning and writing about technology. Outside of work he enjoys entrepreneurship, being with his family, and the outdoors.