Understanding The Many Faces Of Server Virtualisation

As with the term cloud computing, server virtualisation can mean different things to different people but the important issue to realise is that there are a number of solutions in the marketplace, many of which take slightly different approaches to the issue.

Fujitsu, for example, offers an application called ServerView Resource Co-ordinator VE that allows organisations to draw together all of their physical and virtual IT server resources - including those in the cloud - under an umbrella control environment.

The nett result of this solution is that enterprises can keep a careful control over their physical (conventional) servers, as well as virtual servers in their own network, and cloud-based virtual servers.

By ensuring that optimal system resources are automatically allocated at all times - drawing on cloud resources as and when required - the enterprise can use its resources as efficiently as is possible.

This is important for many enterprises, as it means that the possibility of partially - or even completely empty - drive arrays spinning in servers in an air-conditioned data centre is significantly reduced.

So what flavours of virtualisation are best for your organisation? CSA Waverley, a health sector IT specialist, has taken an innovative approach to this issue by using a mobile Blade server running a VMware suite of software, to take free of charge virtualisation test-drives to the desks of NHS IT professionals across the UK.

Since the start of 2009, when it began offering this unique mobile demonstration service, the firm claims to have helped a number of NHS organisations realise more efficient delivery of services by speeding up their understanding and deployment of virtualisation.

According to Jon Leary with the Buckinghamshire specialist, the scheme followed on from a company survey that found 70 per cent of IT managers understand virtualisation, yet nearly 60 per cent said they haven't tried or implemented it.

"The business benefits of virtualisation are well documented, from reducing power and cooling costs to freeing up floor space and reducing C02 emissions for green compliance," he said.

"However, adoption of this new technology is particularly slow amongst NHS organisations and our ongoing 25 year relationship with the NHS has yielded considerable knowledge when it comes to matching appropriate solutions to complex environments," he added.

Under the mobile demo programme, if appropriate, Leary's team will also talk end users through migrating their own low risk back office applications to the virtual servers, allowing them to better understand how the technology works,

IBM's strategy in this regard is also to work closely with clients on how the different flavours of virtualisation can increase efficiency and reduce costs - and also make their IT greener.

In late October 2009, for example, IBM signed a major outsourcing agreement with QBE, the international insurance company, to virtualise the server systems of the firm's UK and Western European offices.

According to IBM, the contract underpins a major change programme at QBE and covers the development plus maintenance of QBE's IT support services including helpdesk, desktop, data centre, LAN, WAN and disaster recovery systems.

IBM's Portsmouth data centre houses the support for the business whilst virtualisation of the server estate will reduce QBE's carbon footprint and provide higher availability - plus scalability - for business growth.

Bruce Ross, general manager with IBM Global Technology Services UK & Ireland, said that his firm's service management disciplines and tools will deliver much higher levels of system availability.

It will also, he explained, significantly improve QBE's business continuity infrastructure.

"IBM's flexible solution will enable QBE to adjust to the fast-changing demands of a competitive market and help transform their IT," he said.

As the old adage says - your mileage may differ - but server virtualisation brings a number of key advantages with it that include cost savings and business efficiencies.

The addition of greener IT and better flexibility of your IT resources makes it a win-win situation for all concerned.