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Using Virtualisation To Consolidate Existing IT Resources

Server virtualisation is held up by most vendors as a paragon of virtue when it comes to cutting costs and simplifying an organisation's IT resources.

But whilst the first virtue is relatively easy to prove on a return on investment (ROI)-based spreadsheet approach, the second task, that of simplifying an organisation's IT resource, is lot more difficult.

Companies, for example, quickly discover that, whilst they can back up their virtual servers in the same way as they do their physical servers, they may not get the same results.

It's very simple, IT staff tend to find, to back up virtual servers if you treat them like physical servers, but then you don't get the benefits of server virtualisation.

The problem is that, if treat virtualised servers like physical servers, you have to manage each one individually, which undercuts any improvements in management efficiency.

You will also have to buy and install a backup agent on each virtual server as if it were a physical server, which will almost certainly require more work and entail additional licence fees for your backup software.

The solution is to source software that is specifically engineered to support virtual server backups and allow you to take advantage of the cost efficiencies that arise.

Using existing resources effectively

But it's not always appropriate to resource a complete new suite of software with all the Capex consequences that result. Many organisations are forced - usually because of budgetary constraints - down the Opex reduction route before they can prove the case for new software.

It's against this backdrop that IBM has developed new systems software for managing virtualised servers, designed to help clients plan, build and maintain their data centres, whilst at the same time reducing their overall costs.

IBM's approach, as an example, is to help clients protect their long-term investments in Power Systems by offering an upgraded path to its next-generation servers that will include POWER7 microprocessors.

The new systems software - IBM Systems Director VMControl - is billed as giving clients a tool to manage heterogeneous virtual servers.

In use, it allows users to discover, display, monitor and locate virtual resources; create and manage virtual servers; and deploy and manage workloads with a common interface across IBM System z mainframes, System x x86-based servers, BladeCentre, and Power Systems AIX, Linux and i platforms.

According to Scott Handy, vice president of IBM Power Systems, management of virtualised servers is a key priority for businesses and can help make them more efficient, orchestrated, and effective.

The new IBM software, he says, provides lifecycle management of virtual servers, with its ability to create, modify and delete virtualised resources, as well as move them to other locations.

VMControl is part of the IBM Systems Director family of software for the management of IBM servers, storage and networking, and provides automatic discovery, as well as monitoring and updates for physical and virtual resources.

Systems Director is billed as helping businesses maintain the performance and availability of their servers and simplify operations in a dynamic infrastructure.

"IBM is serious about addressing clients' needs for virtualisation management," said Handy.

"The VMControl software helps clients reduce total cost of ownership and provides them with the tools needed to both better manage and get more business value out of their heterogeneous virtual computing environments," he added.

To support its existing platforms, IBM has developed an upgrade path to the next-generation of Power Systems based on the POWER7 microprocessor.

In addition to existing customers, clients can purchase a POWER6-based 570 or 595 server today, and can then easily upgrade their existing system when POWER7 becomes available.

According to Handy, a Power 595 or 570-system upgrade can be accomplished during planned downtime by simply replacing the processors, memory and system controllers with new POWER7 components within the existing system frame.

POWER7 processors will then offer two to three times the performance of POWER6 using the same amount of energy.

For either system, once upgraded to POWER7, applications from POWER6 systems can then be moved to the newly upgraded Power 595 or Power 570 servers using IBM's PowerVM Live Partition Mobility or AIX Live Application Mobility software, without impacting availability of the applications.

IBM's migration strategy for organisations wanting to maximise their usage of existing resources is far from unique in the marketplace, and most organisations will find their vendor or systems integrator - will be able to assist them in similar strategies for their platforms.

They key to effective use of existing resources is to take a modular approach to hardware deployment and to then use specialised software to make the migration/upgrade process as efficient as possible.

And good planning helps, but that, of course, is a given...