Top Reasons to Virtualize

Voice, now a mission critical application for many organizations, needs to run on the best infrastructure possible. So almost by definition, voice applications need to run in a virtual machine (VM). Here are a few of my favorite reasons why a VM is better than a physical server. There are many other reasons but ones listed below are the best reasons why voice applications should be virtualized.

Reason #1: Better up time

The argument that if more than one application is placed on a single server and that server dies than I just lost all those applications instead of one is no longer valid. This was a very legitimate concern five years ago. Today you can get better uptime in a VM than you can with a physical machine. In the worst case scenario, if a physical server dies, VMs are automatically powered up on a different physical server. In my experience, the VMs are usually back up and taking requests in less than two minutes. What's best case scenario for restoring a physical server after a hardware crash? Weeks? Days? It will be hours if you are really prepared and have the necessary hardware in place to make the transition. Can you take that long to be down with your voice application?

With today's technology, the VM worst case scenario is often better than the physical server best case scenario. And you might ask, what is the VM best case scenario? Even with hardware maintenance, you can achieve 100 percent uptime running your applications, including voice, in a VM. How? Check out a few of VMware's features like VMotion, DRS and Update Manager.

Reason #2: Better hardware utilization

The average server utilization across the globe is less than 10 percent and in my experience, it's often less than five percent. The reason for this is that a single application can rarely harness the power of the hardware it's running on. And for a ton of different reasons critical applications typically require a dedicated server. Get the most for your money by putting each app in a VM, including your voice applications and run multiple VMs per physical server.

Reason #3: Avoid over provisioning

Why waste time and energy planning for future capacity (which is really nothing more than an educated guess based upon a ton of assumptions)? The tendency has been to over provision hardware to account for future growth, but this often leads to underutilized hardware. With VM, additional CPU and RAM can be added at any time with a few clicks of a mouse. And moving to more powerful systems in the future can be done in real time with vMotion and/or Storage vMotion. With virtualization, it only makes sense to simply build your application for the capacity you need and then throttle as necessary.

Reason #4: Better Security

Typically, protection engines come in two forms, host based and network based. The problem with network-based security software is that it has no visibility into the host. The problem with host-based security software is that it's running in the same context as the malware that it's trying to protect against.

But we now have a new, trusted layer with the much smaller codebase of the hypervisor where we can provide protection from outside of the operating system. A protection engine from this layer can provide a much stronger defense because it's "underneath" the VM, completely isolated from the malware. And this is a great place for a protection engine to live because it can see all I/O of the VM and inspect each of the virtual components (CPU, memory, network and storage). Better yet, we now have the ability to do things like:

  • Intercept, view, modify and replicate I/O traffic from one, many or all VMs
  • Provide inline protection or passive monitoring
  • Mount and read virtual disks

Reason #5: Disaster Recovery made easy

In the physical world, Disaster Recovery (DR) is a painful and super expensive. The reason is DR solutions for physical servers often require similar hardware at the DR site to avoid issues with driver, hardware, and software compatibility. These dependencies are eliminated in a virtual world, which means any VM can run on any physical server with a vSphere hypervisor.

And because a VM is completely encapsulated, the entire VM exists in a small set of files. This simplifies replication and therefore simplifies the process of keeping your production and your DR environment in sync. Finally, servers at the DR site can be used for other purposes, like test and development, until they are required for DR purposes.

One last note about DR. When was the last time you were able to test if your DR solutions will work if there is a disaster? VMware provides a product called SRM you should check out that eliminates all the problems I just mentioned about putting together a DR plan. Your voice applications now become part of your datacenter environment and can be treated as part of your DR solution.

Reason #6: Cost

The virtualization of applications and the purchase of new licenses will have a cost associated with it. However, it's important to consider the following scenarios to truly figure out the costs and ROI associated with the new deployment of your applications (including voice applications).

If you are considering the purchase of one physical server for the purpose of installing an application on your new serve then you should consider the cost associated with a virtualized solution. In a virtualized solution, you will be able to host multiple applications on that same server and, along with your new voice applications, you will be able to install other applications and share the same server. Now, factor in all the other benefits that virtualization of your voice applications will bring to your datacenter and how you operate your business. Very quickly the objections about costs go away.

Bottom Line:

Cost of virtualization should never be an issue when virtualizing your voice applications.

Trends:

Already, with virtualized voice, some CIOs are enjoying a new perspective on voice communications. Instead of having to handle voice communications with a separate budget and separate sets of hardware, processes, and tools – and often staff – CIOs can treat voice like any other business application in the datacenter. Instead of managing boxes, CIOs can manage the overall services that IT provides to the business. And in the process, can reap the benefits and cost savings of a simplified test/development and production cycle, streamlined administration, and a single disaster recovery/business continuity plan that applies to the whole datacenter. Not to mention the potential capital and operational savings in real estate, hardware, power and cooling, and server provisioning costs.

With the voice virtualization chasm spanned and the Mitel and VMware bridge up and functioning, CIOs are crossing over to a datacenter in which virtualized, unified communications helps enterprises respond to today's market challenges.


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