Virtualisation has developed far beyond storage and servers. A range of technologies are now available from a mixture of innovative manufacturers. VMware arguably set the mainstream precedent in 1998 and was the first major virtualisation player. The company demonstrated to an IT world accustomed to poor utilisation percentages, just how this new technology could unlock capability lost to over-provisioning.

Virtualisation increases flexibility and scalability, and allows performance to be allocated as and when needed. VMware gave CTOs a pool of resource which they could draw from to create the most efficient scenario, and this principle has been applied to a range of other data centre technologies. New solutions are not only designed to be virtualised but actually enhance the effectiveness of the entire virtual environment.

Stand alone

Virtualisation has moved beyond the primary data centre. Whereas once it was predominantly an enterprise server technology, it now touches the secondary data centre, remote branch offices and mobile users as well. With a range of solutions available, businesses have to decide what to virtualise. Do they stick and just optimise legacy IT, or do they twist and introduce innovative new technology, ranging from virtual network operating systems, to VM-aware storage to I/O virtualisation.

Undoubtedly individual virtualisation technologies have their benefits and offer good return on investment. Their value proposition is even more significant in the current economic climate; cost savings combined with the ability to optimise IT infrastructure allows businesses to do more with less, appealing to CIOs and FDs alike.

Virtualisation strategy unlocks technology potential

Investment in virtualisation solutions can also be made safe in the knowledge that the technology will be compatible with current and future architectures, thanks to VMware unlocking traditional vendor tie-ins. Virtualisation solutions can therefore be chosen on their individual merits – one vendor for storage and another for the WAN for example – but the greatest benefits are realised when available solutions are considered and included in a holistic virtualisation strategy.

All together now

A strategic approach to virtualisation helps businesses achieve return on investment as quickly as possible. Equipment and resources can be consolidated and repurposed for new virtual offices for example. In this case the office benefits from virtual storage provisioning, with the key storage infrastructure located in the central data centre.

All data is transferred using WAN virtualisation negating the need for expensive dedicated MPLS pipes. This storage could be VM-aware, not to be confused with VMware, and benefit from virtualised I/O from virtualised servers designed to power virtual machines, as opposed to single appliances or applications. All of this would be monitored in real-time to ensure maximum efficiency and effective root cause analysis.

A virtualisation strategy will also help solve new challenges associated with improved efficiency. One of these could be an increase in data caused by resource optimisation. This can result in bottlenecks in the network if not managed properly. The solution? Virtualise the network, virtualise the signal itself and evolve the storage. Rather than legacy spinning disk technology, storage is now purpose built for virtual machines. It uses SSD for instant I/O commands and automatically tiers the rest of the data. This is a great example of innovation driving innovation.

Moving forward

There is no question that a virtualised environment allows CTOs to effectively pool resource and do more with less. Virtualisation is now an established concept as proven by the increase in SMB investment as smaller businesses begin to exploit the value proposition.

The technology will continue to evolve and new virtualisation solutions will offer further optimisation of the IT estate – Microsoft’s Hyper-V continues to gain market share, for example; a positive contribution in terms of market diversification. CTOs and resellers are becoming excellent strategists; it comes with the territory, but in order to gain maximum return on investment from virtualisation they need to consider how it is no longer restricted to the primary data centre. New virtual strategies will need to effectively pool resources from multiple vendors in order to benefit the business as a whole.