Virtualization is a hot topic in today’s IT world, and literally means using a virtual rather than actual version of something to increase efficiency, such as a storage device, server or network resources. It is not a new concept despite all the current “hype”, and partitioning your hard drive on your laptop follows the same process. It is just an old idea that is now being used in a new way to create some really dramatic changes.
Three kinds of virtualization are now being deployed in the data center – storage virtualization, network virtualization, and server virtualization.
In storage virtualization, physical storage devices are pooled from many network storage devices to give the appearance of a single device, managed from a central source. Storage area networks or SANs use this technology extensively.
Data installation centers of the past were filled with racks and racks of power hungry servers, taking up valuable space and generating heat. Today’s data centers use server virtualization as a way of consolidating many “virtual” servers (referred to as virtual machines) into one piece of equipment. Therefore, modern data centers have lowered power requirements, lowered space requirements and the ability to have needed redundancy without additional Capex.
Virtual servers are created via the use of special software that effectively partitions a system into virtual areas that act as unique,stand-alone devices. Each virtual machine is fully capable of running its own OS (operating system), making virtual machines a great way to test new OS’s or OS additions.
Last but not least, today’s data centers are using network virtualization as well to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. The simplest form of network virtualization is the use of VLANs – pioneered by Cisco Systems. In a VLAN architecture, a systems administrator can configure systems that are attached to the same network as different virtual networks. He or she can also combine separate local networks into a VLAN that can span an entire large corporate network. VLAN architectures are sometimes referred to as “external network virtualization”. Some newer architectures are now available featuring “internal network virtualization”. This usually is configured via containers or pseudo interfaces which creates what some vendors refer to as a “network-in-a-box”.
The end result of the tremendous upsurge in these three forms of virtualization technology is a dramatically streamlined data center – capable of meeting the challenges poised by cloud computing and our ever-growing needs for storage and information access.
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