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Keeping IT Simple

Over the next few weeks, Ill be taking a look at user concerns about virtualization and trying to dispel any myths surrounding the technology. But first, let’s take a look at what virtualization is and how it works in order to address some of the confusion surrounding it.

As you know, data centers comprise a wide array of computing, storage, and network systems. The result is a very complex infrastructure that creates a great many management issues. These, in turn, place a strain on IT resources. There is a growing need for technologies that can simplify and automate the data center in order to make it run more smartly and more efficiently – and that’s where virtualization comes in.

Virtualization is the pooling of IT resources in a way that masks the physical nature and boundaries of those resources from users. This allows companies to meet logical resource needs with fewer physical resources. Virtualized products allow you to deploy multiple instances of a variety of services – all from the same appliance. Though virtualization has just come into the limelight within the past year, it has been used for over a decade in technologies such as Frame Relay, virtual LANs, logical partitions (LPARs), and RAID.

Virtualization couples the economics and efficiencies of a shared system with the integrity, performance, and security of an independent system. Virtual devices deliver a wide range of functions on a single physical hardware platform. However, network administrators can configure, deploy, and manage these functions as if they were separate devices. So the benefits here are twofold: You save money by purchasing fewer physical appliances (capital expenditure); and the ability to electronically provision the functions remotely means you no longer have to send someone into the data center each time you need something reconfigured, which saves you a great deal of time (operating expenditure).

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of having multiple virtualized instances of different functions – such as multiple firewalls – sharing the same resources. While virtualized gear does combine multiple instances of certain functions, they also partition and isolate resources such as processing capacity, memory, bandwidth, and more, into multiple sets of resources. Users can operate these resources independently and allocate different quantities to specific applications in order to ensure isolation.

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