In a digital-first world, virtualization is a driving factor -- and for the data center, it's key to scaling and maintaining efficiency. Data center virtualization is another option organizations have to simplify operations.
Whether you're an admin or a stakeholder, consider data center virtualization for its benefits in cost, scalability and other areas.
What is data center virtualization?
Virtualization is the process of creating a "virtual" instance of a system or application. In other words, virtualization uses software to simulate hardware and abstracts resources from a physical piece of equipment to create a virtual version of it. This enables the use of multiple virtual systems with fewer physical resources.
Traditional data centers typically require large footprints to house dozens and sometimes hundreds of physical servers, storage devices and networking equipment. Data center virtualization is the process of transforming these physical resources into digital ones -- for example, by creating virtual servers from physical servers. Fully virtualized data centers usually have a completely interconnected system of virtualized hardware and other digital components.
With virtualization, data centers can drastically cut back on their physical hardware, but that's not the only benefit afforded by this digital technology.
Benefits of data center virtualization
From increased scalability to improved resource provisioning, virtual data centers can provide a variety of benefits for data center admins and end users.
1. Reduced hardware costs
A virtualized data center requires significantly less physical hardware, so organizations can save on data center costs in the form of smaller footprints and less equipment management. It also allows you to do more with your physical resources -- you can get more out of each server, and with greater server utilization, you'll get a nice boost to efficiency.
2. Less need for -- and more efficient -- cooling
It's not easy maintaining ambient and equipment temperatures in a data center crowded with hot, power-hungry servers. Along with reduced costs due to less physical hardware, virtualized data centers have significantly reduced energy and cooling needs and can process the same workloads as traditional data centers at a fraction of the cost.
3. Increased scalability
Setting up a physical server can be expensive and time-consuming and often requires intensive, hands-on work to get it up and running. In comparison, a virtual server can be set up simply, quickly and inexpensively.
Traditional data centers are also forced to work with limited space. If you run out of space for more servers, you're looking at a multiyear construction project to clear space, which can be harmful to the environment, not to mention the increased energy burden. With data center virtualization, you can do significantly more with significantly less, allowing you to scale up without as many constraints.
4. Increased flexibility
In addition to easier setup, virtual resources are easy to spin down as needed. If your data center experiences a rapid spike in processing demands, you can easily flex to meet those needs with a virtualized data center and vice versa: If those demands decrease drastically after the spike, you can easily downsize any unnecessary servers or resources.
5. Better for compliance and security
Moving to a virtualized data center can help you better meet regulatory requirements in a few ways. For example, organizations can encapsulate data traffic within a virtual ecosystem, separated from your physical hardware. By keeping data isolated in this way, you can better protect it and prevent a bad actor from gaining access to other data by moving laterally across your network.
Another advantage is more flexible policy management. In a virtual environment, it's easier to confine data workloads with distinct security policies. With differing local and global compliance demands, you can configure a variety of policies and duplicate them as needed. This can help simplify data governance while maintaining a high level of compliance.
6. Enhanced disaster recovery and backup
In a traditional data center, recovery plans are limited, most often coming down to duplicating data on backup machines housed in a recovery site. Should your main site go down due to a disaster or a piece of hardware fails, you can fail back to the data at the recovery site, though it might be outdated, and it might take a while to get a new machine up and running.
With virtualization, you can automate much of the backup process. Organizations can periodically save snapshots of virtual resources more frequently. And because you'll have less hardware, you can vastly consolidate your recovery site. If hardware fails, you can move all your virtual machines to another host or server immediately and often automatically, resulting in far less downtime.
7. Improved resource provisioning
Virtual data center architecture allows you to greatly simplify resource provisioning. Physical servers can be more resilient if they are decoupled from applications and your admins can focus on optimizing resources at a more granular level. With a single source of truth and superior orchestration capabilities at their fingertips, admins can adjust and fine-tune resource utilization on the fly, maximizing performance.
8. Greater data mobility
Hand in hand with resource provisioning is data mobility. Virtualized data centers often enjoy more efficient data workloads, as admins can spend less time managing technical infrastructure and more time helping data get where it needs to go, faster. With a leaner network, data can move across and through it easier, reducing traffic obstacles and even bandwidth bottlenecks.
What to consider about data center virtualization
Moving away from a physical data center setup to virtualized infrastructure is easier said than done. The digital transformation process takes time, careful planning, a sizable upfront investment and cloud expertise -- not to mention an even more fervent dedication to clearly defining configuration policies. There's also a risk of virtual machine sprawl, a level of IT complexity that can prove difficult to curb once it gets out of control.
Compared to traditional data centers, the virtualized data center clearly offers a host of benefits. And despite the considerations that come with transitioning, we're entering an era of high data center demand on a global scale. The flexibility provided by virtualization can be key to keep up with the rapid pace of the industry and growing customer needs.