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TECH WATCH: Data Center Virtualization

Fewer Really Is Better
Through Virtualization technologies, government is consolidating Data Centers, resulting in increased productivity and reduced energy consumption.  

The terms “Data Centers” and “Server Virtualization” are joined at the hip these days – especially when it comes to assuring business continuity.


Fewer Really Is Better
Tools For The Job

10 Keys To Data Center Virtualization
Public Perspectives: Michael Sade, GSA
Industry Insights
Data Center Virtualization.pdf [PDF]
Data Centers because government IT professionals are actively looking at every conceivable way to consolidate, modernize and – most of all – reduce the costs of Data Center operations; server Virtualization because IT professionals see the technology as one proven method that can actually optimize Data Center operations; and business continuity because agencies must be able to replicate data in case of emergency.

According to open source leader Red Hat, server Virtualization allows a single server to host multiple guest operating systems and applications. You can have multiple operating systems, multiple versions, multiple performance and security settings all running on the same server.


Tied To Business Functions


 “If I look at the typical Data Center today, you have racks and racks and racks of servers and what happens in these Data Centers is those physical pieces of hardware are very much tied to specific business functions with servers for email, for websites, for databases and things like that,” said David Smith Citrix Federal’s Engineering Manager in an interview with 1105 Custom Media.


“So, our flexibility as an organization is very much tied to a piece of capital equipment; this happens not just in the Data Center, but throughout the IT infrastructure, whether it is desktops or networks.”


In the non-virtualized world, every time there is some new application it requires a capital expense to buy better servers or networks or desktops. That is because the business function is tied to these pieces of equipment.


“We see Virtualization as a way to decouple, to loosen the coupling between the hardware and the actual business workload you are trying to run on the piece of hardware,” explained Smith.


Virtualization Changes The Model


“It separates the hardware from software,” Aileen Black VP, Public Sector, VMware told 1105 Custom Media. “Now your servers are files; so think about your ability for disaster recovery and to backup on line; your test and development environment and the ability to deploy applications quickly; to update all your servers with most recent patches so your security is up to date.


All of those things become so much simpler in the virtualized world versus the physical world. “It’s letting IT be used as a weapon to get the mission done versus sometimes ‘I’ve got to wait until that happens with IT’,” said Black. “We are seeing that in the Data Center and in Data Center consolidation.”


VMware puts it this way. “Infrastructure is what connects resources to your business. Virtual Infrastructure is a dynamic mapping of your resources to your business. Result: decreased costs and increased efficiencies and responsiveness.”


What’s In It For Me


“By the collapse rates, it’s a no brainer,” declared Black. “We are seeing collapse rates for Data Center consolidation that are 20 to 1. We are collapsing 20 physical servers into one. That’s huge!”


It reduces your carbon footprint for power and cooling. For every server virtualized you take 1 1/2 of cars off the road,” said Black. “That’s pretty impressive.”


That’s not the only benefit. According to Black when you collapse servers IT executives see a great jump in productivity because they can manage many times more virtual servers than physical servers.


“Do the math,” said Black. “It changes the way and dynamic of how to manage their IT infrastructure.”


A Server Is A Server Is A Server


Another benefit according to Citrix’s Smith is that using Virtualization in your server consolidation efforts allows you to separate the business workload from the actual physical piece of equipment it is running on.


“I would love to be able to run any workload on any piece of equipment in my Data Center,” explained Smith. “That gives me the flexibility in case a server fails or I need additional capacity or something happens, so I can move workloads around in my Data Center.” That becomes much easier when the servers are like files.


And it allows you to get better utilization of your existing investment and be able to invest with the greatest flexibility possible in the future.


“Another way I look at it from a government perspective is: if I can separate the workloads, I can now look at how I outsource my Data Center contracts,” said Smith. “Maybe it is more about the horsepower that is needed from a Data Center perspective rather than the workloads themselves.”


So instead of doing an email system with an SI, you could look just for a Data Center outsourcing contracts – and they are available on GSA Schedule.  Figure out how much horsepower you need to run your existing workloads and buy that capacity. It can change how you can resource the IT department.\


The Time Has Come


For Data Center consolidation and Virtualization to occur, government still needs to buy the products and services needed. GSA has stepped up to the plate explained Mike Sade, Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition Management
in the Federal Acquisition Service within the GSA.


“What we are finding is we can provide everything from building an energy efficient and Green Data Canter – and outfitting it with equipment from Schedules or through one of our Contractors – to offerings on GSA Schedules where you can completely outsource and remotely locate your Data Center,” said Sade.


“There are a growing number of industry partners that are offering Green Data Center services on our Schedule contracts and through our GWACs as well as through our Network Services contract.”


The biggest thing Virtualization provides to the federal IT user is agility and the ability to get all types of things done Black said. “I like to think of VMware as the Swiss Army Knife of technology. You can use it in so many different ways and it provides the ultimate ability and agility to help Federal IT executives get their job done.”


So, with Virtualization you can first focus on the collapse rates. They are certainly there to be achieved. You can reduce your physical server sprawl and cut your Data Center square footage and power consumption.


But down the line, Virtualization sets up the platform for all the other things that make a server consolidated environment work well, such as the ability to ability to implement Disaster Recovery processes easily; the ability to manage the lifecycle of your virtual machines over time; and the ability to upload patches and security fixes as well as applications easily and electronically from a single centralized point.


Simply put, Virtualization – and how it facilitates Data Center consolidation –  is an idea whose time has come.


Before and After
Can Virtualization make a difference in your Data Center? You bet it can. Just look before and after.


Before Virtualization:

Single OS image per machine

Software and hardware tightly coupled

Running multiple applications on same machine often creates conflict

Underutilized resources

Inflexible and costly infrastructure


After Virtualization:

Hardware-independence of operating system and applications

Virtual machines can be provisioned to any system

Can manage OS and application as a single unit by encapsulating them into virtual machines

Source: VMware