Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have become prominent players on the virtualization scene. Taking advantage of server consolidation has resulted in an upsurge of savings tied to power, cooling, physical space requirements and management overhead.
Gaining leverage on a virtualization investment, is dependent upon implementation and architecture that supplies both virtualization and cloud capabilities. SMBs have recognized additional cost benefits of server consolidation when their virtualization investment was applied to cloud computing. The potential for superior management, security and scalability can be achieved through either private or hybrid cloud models that best serve these organizations.
Developing the Groundwork for Cloud Computing
Virtualization is often used synonymously with cloud computing, and although the terms are quite similar, it is important to keep in mind that they are not the same article. Some of the similarities between virtualization and cloud computing include the following:
- Lowering costs by providing IT with more flexible and agile resource allocation abilities.
- The ability to easily transfer virtual machines from one physical server to another.
- Maximized server capacity while accommodating workloads and maintenance schedules.
- Reliable and increased performance.
- Swift application testing and deployment capabilities.
There are however, differences between virtualization and cloud computing as well. While the two items can be deployed together and organization’s IT department may choose to deploy a virtual server without the implementation of a private cloud or vice versa.
- Represents an infrastructure.
- Involves virtual servers that support several operating systems and applications.
- Every physical server runs many virtual servers or machines.
- The emphasis of virtualization is on the consolidation of servers and storage arrays involved in data center architecture.
- A service that leverages a virtual architecture.
- Provides centralized resources that can be charged to specific groups or departments.
- Operates as a utility, which allows companies to provision the resources that their employees are actually using. Additionally, critical applications can be delivered at the times they are needed the most to allow for high performance potential.
Cloud Computing Models
After virtual servers have been deployed, incorporating cloud computing into an SMBs virtualization investment is the next rational step. The available models for cloud computing include public, private and hybrid. The majority of SMBs would benefit from a private cloud when they decide to utilize the additional cost benefits that their virtualization investment has to offer.
- Unlike public cloud services, private clouds host services from the inside of a corporate firewall, which reduces risks to the data.
- Public firewalls can also result in SMBs relying on a vendor that may not provide the necessary level of attention to smaller customers.
- The greatest risk associated with a public vendor is the possibility of data loss with the occurrence of a service outage.
Even though a vendor will usually agree to specific service levels, an SMB will be unable to repair service outages or slow-downs. Even in the case that a vendor agrees to some financial reimbursement, the productivity that was lost cannot be repaid. When an SMB deploys their own private cloud, their IT groups will be able to reduce risks and enhance advantages:
- Private clouds comply with legislated mandates by guaranteeing and confirming the security of data.
- It is possible to monitor usage and adjust service levels accordingly to meet the changing needs of the end-user community.
- The chargeback capabilities allow SMBs to itemize charges to specific departments for service and applications, which allows for better capacity planning and budgeting.
Although a private cloud is preferable over a public cloud in most instances, an SMB does not necessarily have to choose between the two. Small and medium businesses may decide that a public cloud is the most ideal for a particular application while a private cloud is best suited to another. This type of hybrid approach gives SMBs the chance to benefit from outside vendor services for the purpose of precise application or in order to separate work groups or locations.
A Long-Term Investment Strategy
Once the necessary steps have been taken to reap the benefits of virtualization there is usually a natural progression in the direction of additional savings that can be achieved through private and hybrid cloud services. Some of these benefits can be seen immediately while others result in savings over the long term.
- By investing in hardware and software platforms that are fully supportive of both cloud computing and virtualization, the need to replace servers and storage arrays will be minimized. Hardware has a large influence on the ability to shift into a virtualization or cloud strategy. In order to gain the benefit of increased productivity, efficient and reliable performance is critical.
- One of the chief cost advantages that can be realized through virtualization is reduced IT operating costs. Fewer servers and storage devices to manage can significantly reduce the number of hours spent on maintenance tasks.
- For SMBs, savings on power and cooling can be seen through investing in servers that are energy efficient.
- Manageability features provided by virtualization and cloud computing software platforms can result in additional savings. These platforms pay off through provisioning, which deploys applications to end-users without the need for IT to spend time setting up permissions and configurations.
- Security features that protect data and application in the cloud can also save time by allowing IT to circumvent the need to install, track, update and configure files on every physical server.
An advanced virtual datacenter, or private cloud, should be able to shift virtual machines in order to provide the advantage of a capacity surplus, to reduce wasted capacity, minimize downtime and guarantee high functionality. Additionally, chargeback capabilities can give businesses an edge when it comes to tracking usage and charging it to a specific department or location. This makes the cost of IT services more transparent and allows SMBs to accurately align IT and business goals.
Virtualization strategies are being implemented at a rapid pace at SMBs and the benefits offered by server consolidation are quickly being realized as well. These initial savings are only the beginning of lowered expenditure and when SMBs leverage private followed by hybrid cloud strategies they can reduce their costs even further with resource provisioning and pooling, automation, scalability, security and management. By investing in a flexible architecture, any SMB can take the steps to advance from virtualization to cloud computing swiftly and with minimal cost.
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- 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.