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IT infrastructure virtualization

Techopedia Explains Virtual Infrastructure

The main purpose of a virtual infrastructure is to bring enterprise-level technology to organizations that cannot afford the large capital required to pay for the hardware, software licenses, setup and continual maintenance of an actual data center infrastructure. The technology involves virtualization, which is the utilization of physical server resources to host logical or virtual servers and networking hardware in order to optimize resources and drive costs down by hosting multiple virtual servers in a single host server.

The idea is that no single server is actually taxed enough to the point that its resource limits are reached so it would be more prudent to make use of these resources by running multiple logical servers that, together, can make use of the actual capacity of the host. This lean approach allows for sharing and distributing resources, which, in turn, promotes flexibility, scalability and lower total cost of ownership.

Benefits of a virtual infrastructure:

  • Scalable – Allows provisioning as many or as few logical servers as required, and users only pay for what they use.
  • Flexible – Allows for multiple server and networking configurations as compared to a hardwired physical infrastructure, which requires more capital and effort to change.
  • Secure – Allows more security to be layered on top of whatever security is already present in the virtual infrastructure because all traffic to the virtual infrastructure goes through the actual physical infrastructure.
  • Load balancing – Allows software-based servers to share workloads easily and distribute them properly so that no single logical server is taxed more than the others.
  • Backup and recovery – Promotes easier backups because everything can be saved somewhere, allowing for quick recovery in other hosts if a few hosts are down. This is almost impossible with physical servers, which have to be revived before services can resume.

Benefits of virtual infrastructure

The benefits of virtualization touch every aspect of an IT infrastructure, from storage and server systems to networking tools. Here are some key benefits of a virtual infrastructure:

  • Cost savings: By consolidating servers, virtualization reduces capital and operating costs associated with variables such as electrical power, physical security, hosting and server development.
  • Scalability: A virtual infrastructure allows organizations to react quickly to changing customer demands and market trends by ramping up on CPU utilization or scaling back accordingly.
  • Increased productivity: Faster provisioning of applications and resources allows IT teams to respond more quickly to employee demands for new tools and technologies. The result: increased productivity, efficiency and agility for IT teams, and an enhanced employee experience and increased talent retention rates without hardware procurement delays.
  • Simplified server management: From seasonal spikes in consumer demand to unexpected economic downturns, organizations need to respond quickly. Simplified server management makes sure IT teams can spin up, or down, virtual machines when required and re-provision resources based on real-time needs. Furthermore, many management consoles offer dashboards, automated alerts and reports so that IT teams can respond immediately to server performance issues.

Virtual infrastructure components

By separating physical hardware from operating systems, virtualization can provision compute, memory, storage and networking resources across multiple virtual machines (VMs) for greater application performance, increased cost savings and easier management. Despite variances in design and functionality, a virtual infrastructure typically consists of these key components:

  • Virtualized compute: This component offers the same capabilities as physical servers, but with the ability to be more efficient. Through virtualization, many operating systems and applications can run on a single physical server, whereas in traditional infrastructure servers were often underutilized. Virtual compute also makes newer technologies like cloud computing and containers possible.
  • Virtualized storage: This component frees organizations from the constraints and limitations of hardware by combining pools of physical storage capacity into a single, more manageable repository. By connecting storage arrays to multiple servers using storage area networks, organizations can bolster their storage resources and gain more flexibility in provisioning them to virtual machines. Widely used storage solutions include fiber channel SAN arrays, iSCSI SAN arrays, and NAS arrays.
  • Virtualized networking and security: This component decouples networking services from the underlying hardware and allows users to access network resources from a centralized management system. Key security features ensure a protected environment for virtual machines, including restricted access, virtual machine isolation and user provisioning measures.
  • Management solution: This component provides a user-friendly console for configuring, managing and provisioning virtualized IT infrastructure, as well automating processes. A management solution allows IT teams to migrate virtual machines from one physical server to another without delays or downtime, while enabling high availability for applications running in virtual machines, disaster recovery and back-up administration.

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