Computing environments can be massively enhanced through virtualization. Working on the principles of money saving alone, having your virtual servers powered by a lone physical server makes good sense. When considering the need to virtualize; another large benefit is that administrative burdens can also be dramatically reduced; power needs are also pared down. Going beyond a simple single server setup, or just planning for a change, then virtualization is certainly a step in the right direction. Multicore servers are of course the norm now, but generally not for a small business. Nevertheless, a multicore server virtualization is an economical and efficiency enhancing need and will save on both power consumption and heat related concerns.
Choosing the Host Server
You might expect that you would need a powerhouse of a server to host all of the virtual servers that you require. You would actually be surprised at the amount of processing resources that are actually required for this. Software choice is paramount and all the top names such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer allow for even a quad core server to host a fairly large number of virtual servers. Efficient use of the the CPU comes into play. Virtual work is rarely honed in just the CPU and it occurs throughout the host with I/O, RAM, CPU and disk all being harnessed at appropriate times. Required to keep in mind is that the type of server that is being utilized can make a big difference. An example of this is a database that is being accessed and added to on a more frequent basis. Dependent upon your means a smaller outfit might struggle to virtualize servers like these.
[Read also: How to Choose a Server for Your Business]
Choosing the Hardware
If you’re starting from the ground up a single server setup is naturally the beginning. It’s recommended that more cores are chosen as opposed to having higher clock speeds. Even if the host is running on a clock speed slower than another potential choice, it is better to choose the higher cored server. Harking back to our previous paragraph a multicore setup allows for more of the workload to be spread out. A lower core amount with superior clock speed simply means that less work will be done faster. What you’re aiming for is more work at reasonable speed which is what this particular setup will give you.
In this case more is better. Cram as much RAM as possible into your budget and aim for the speediest selection that you can get. As a host for a virtual server your chosen device can expect to use an awful lot of RAM. Oversubscribing RAM is much more difficult than oversubscribing CPU resources, as a general rule the more RAM that you have on board, the more virtual servers can be used.
NAS vs. SAN
For most purposes a RAID 5 or 6 array will meet your needs when running a smaller environment friendly SAN (Storage Area Network). SAT drives are the device that you want to go for, but if budgets allow the superior SAS drive is an improvement. This will take the burden of keeping the virtual server images from the physical server, but to optimize ideally make sure that its RAID controller is compatible.
Is your setup secure? You might think so but if budgets allow redundancy should also be built in for the power supply. You’re already running a lot of your server needs through one physical conduit so rather be safe than sorry.
Expanding the bandwidth is always a good idea, so it might be time to take advantage of enhanced features like link aggregation or bonding. On the other hand a NICs (network interface controller) can easily be set up too as a simple networking solution. Bandwidth increases through bonding means that both servers and users can enjoy greater access speeds. This feature is not just available on top end Ethernet switches, but even on mid-range setups too. Your server should have as a minimum 4 gigabyte network interface(s) that will allow most virtual servers to run smoothly.
It needn’t cut into your budget when looking to explore virtualization. Some software packages can actually be obtained for free. One of the better regarded hypervisors is the VMware server that is a product of VMware. You might also want to experiment with the premium offering of VMware – ESXi, which is a bare metal hypervisor. It is still dependent upon the OS that is being run and lacks the speed and efficiency of non OS dependant virtualizers. The two variants come with slight caveats, if you’re already running Linux then the version of VMware server can be run for free.
The Windows version will however have a slight cost deficit as licensed copies of Windows Server 2001 or the later 2008 version are needed. For network administrators who cleave to Windows, 2 versions are available:
- Hyper-V server which is standalone
- Working in the server role within the environment of Windows Server 2008 R2
Other less well known options
If the VMware product and Microsoft’s offering aren’t to your liking then you might like to consider using the less well known XenServer from Citrix. It’s inclusion of multiserver management and the fact that it is free and doesn’t need an OS or its license means that some administrators do prefer it.
[Read also: 5 Reasons You May Want A Windows VPS]
Trying out your options
There are many different options that can be applied in your application of virtualization. There are many advantages that are applicable to running a virtual server. Updates and other changes that are applied need not be feared with the virtual snapshot ability. With the many options that are available and can be accessed for inexpensive software and hardware solutions virtualization is definitely the way forward.