The potential benefits of server virtualization for small and midsize businesses are enormous and well documented -- but there's also an element of risk involved.
StorageIO's Greg Schultz tells bMighty.com about "the dark side" of server virtualization for SMBs, and warns of potential pitfalls when companies get carried away.
Schultz, founder and senior analyst at IT research and consulting house StorageIO and author of The Green and Virtual Data Center, worries about SMBs that get swept up in "the craze of trying to over-consolidate and over-optimize," using virtualization technology -- often at the expense of overall performance and productivity.
"The dark side there is that in the quest to try to drive up utilization and squeeze more and more out" of limited IT resources, "the response time is impacted, as well as quality of service, latency -- things that can have an impact on the top as well as the bottom line of productivity," Schultz warns.
Another potential pitfall for smaller companies jumping into virtualization bandwagon is that they are frequently guilty of "forgetting the basics, such as fault containment, fault isolation, basic high availability, business continuity and disaster recovery. All those things need to be kept in mind, and it's a balancing act."
In fact, virtualization can significantly exacerbate such a lapse. If a single server fails in a non-virtualized environment, the consequences are typically much less damaging than when a highly virtualized server fails. In fact, in their fervor to drive up utilization, it is not uncommon for smaller IT shops to go too far, and to actually set imprudent goals, such as, "I want to get down to one server," Schultz says.
"The problem is that one server has now become a single point of failure. You've put all your eggs in one basket." Schultz recommends sticking with a minimum of two servers, reserving the second machine for failover, testing, and load balancing.
"But don't stop at the server," Schultz cautions. "Don't forget about the network adapters in that race to consolidate and penny pinch." Schultz reminds SMBs that using virtualization techniques to combine multiple logical machines together onto a single piece of hardware will inevitably compound I/O requirements, as well. "If I have a bunch of servers, and by themselves they're not requiring a lot of network activity, or a lot of storage or I/O activity, when I bunch them all together, their aggregate processing needs are going to be greater. So they're going to need more CPU, more memory, more I/O capability."
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InformationWeek Contributing Editor Steve Kovsky is a veteran reporter and author who has covered information technology for nearly 20 years in print, radio, television and online.
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