- While it comes with a high upfront cost, virtualization reduces IT costs and requires less management.
- Virtualization is highly scalable. However, because of how easy it is to create a new server, many companies end up managing more servers than necessary.
- Not all software and hardware are virtualization-friendly.
- This article is for small business owners who want to learn whether virtualization may be right for them.
Virtualization has several benefits. For businesses with limited funds, virtualization helps them stay on budget by eliminating the need to invest in tons of hardware. Virtual work environments also help businesses with limited IT staff automate and outsource routine tasks and centralize resource management. Plus, employees can access their data anytime, anywhere, with any device.
However, virtualized environments have drawbacks too. Here are the major pros and cons of virtualization.
Pros of virtualization
1. Reduced IT costs
Virtualization helps businesses reduce costs in several ways, according to Mike Adams, vice president of product and technical marketing at Ivanti.
- Capital expenditure savings: Virtualization lets you reduce your IT costs by requiring fewer hardware servers and related resources to achieve the same level of computing performance, availability, and scalability. [Related: How to Cut Business Costs]
- Operational expenditure savings: Once servers are virtualized, your IT staff can greatly reduce the ongoing administration and management of manual, time-consuming processes by automating operations, thus resulting in lower operational expenses.
- Data center and energy savings: As you shrink your company’s hardware and server footprint, you lower your energy consumption by cooling power and data center square footage, which results in lower costs. Learn how to make sustainability part of your business model.
Did you know? According to Spiceworks, enterprises with over 1,000 employees have been adopting application virtualization twice as much as small businesses.
2. Efficient resource utilization
Virtualization enables your business to get the most out of your investments in hardware and resources.
“As customer data center environments grow in size and complexity, managing it becomes a burden,” Adams said. “Virtualization can greatly help reduce this complexity by offering resource management capabilities to help increase efficiencies in these virtual environments.”
In contrast, traditional infrastructures that use multiple servers don’t make the most of their setups.
“Many of those servers would typically not utilize more than 2% to 10% of the server hardware resources,” said John Livesay, vice president of Infranet Technologies, a network infrastructure services provider. “With virtualization, we can now run multiple virtual servers on a single virtual host [and make] better use of the resources available.”
Virtualization is highly scalable. It lets you easily create additional resources as required by many applications, such as by adding extra servers – all on an as-needed basis, without any significant investments in time or money.
IT admins can create new servers quickly because they do not need to purchase new hardware each time they need a new server, Livesay said. “If the resources are available, we can create a new server in a few clicks of a mouse.”
The ease of creating additional resources also helps businesses scale as they grow. “This scenario might be good for small businesses that are growing quickly, or businesses using their data center for testing and software development,” Livesay said.
“Workloads such as Hadoop, SQL databases, Spark, and containers often start off on bare-metal hardware but present new opportunities to be virtualized later on,” Adams said. “Virtualization can now support many new applications and workloads within the first 60 to 90 days on the market.”
Cons of virtualization
1. The upfront costs are hefty.
If you’re transitioning a legacy system to a virtualized one, upfront costs are likely to be high. Be prepared to spend upward of $10,000 for the servers and software licenses. However, as virtualization technology improves and becomes more commonplace, costs will go down.
2. Not all hardware or software can be virtualized.
Not all servers and applications are virtualization-friendly, Livesay said. “Typically, the main reason you may not virtualize a server or application is only because the application vendor may not support it yet, or recommend it.”
Although more software applications are adapting to virtualization situations, there may be licensing complications due to multiple hosts and migrations. Regarding performance and licensing issues, you should check if your business’s essential applications work well in a virtualized environment.
3. It’s easy to get carried away with adding servers.
Keep in mind that one of the main goals and advantages of virtualization is the efficient use of resources. You should be careful not to let the effortlessness of creating servers result in the carelessness of allocating resources.
“Server sprawl is one of the unintended consequences of virtualization,” Livesay said. “Once administrators realize how easy it is to add new servers, they start adding a new server for everything. Soon you find that, instead of six to 10 servers, you are now managing 20 to 30 servers.”
Key takeaway: Virtualization can be extremely beneficial for a business owner looking to scale their company or save on resources. However, make sure your hardware and software are capable of virtualization before making any changes.
Virtualization solutions for small businesses
VMware offers a wide range of virtualization products and services that make IT less costly and easier to manage for all types of companies, including small businesses. Its end-to-end solutions include vSphere, a virtualization platform known for its high reliability and used by businesses around the world. It delivers powerful computing that can handle multiple workloads with maximum uptime and optimum performance.
Citrix offers several virtualization solutions suitable for small businesses. One such solution is VDI-in-a-Box, a scalable desktop virtualization service that is easy to deploy and manage. Anyone with Windows expertise can centrally manage the service and grant user access, reducing desktop management costs like hiring IT specialists and purchasing extra equipment and multiple software. Another option is XenApp Fundamentals, a turnkey solution that lets a small business instantly and securely virtualize applications for the entire organization.
IBM offers many types of virtualization solutions that lower costs and maximize agility for small businesses. Using VMware’s virtualization platform, IBM’s virtualization services provide an enterprise-class IT infrastructure for a small business budget. You can choose from four plans based on your needs: the popular IBM System x, the easy-to-deploy IBM Power Systems, the multi-server IBM BladeCenter, and the advanced IBM PureFlex System Express.
Because VMware certifications are based on its proprietary technology, most notably vSphere, the certifications change as the technology advances. Those who are interested in a VMware Associate certification must pass a single exam, while Professional and Advanced Professional certifications require training courses or a prerequisite certification and an exam. Design Expert certifications are even more extensive.
For professionals interested in Citrix certification, it offers credentials for virtualization at the associate, professional and expert levels. Associate credentials are earned by passing a single exam, and training is not required. From there, you can work your way up to professional and expert certifications, which require more involved testing.
The Cisco Career Certification program offers a wide range of certifications, from entry to architect level. Depending on the certification you’re looking to earn, there are various exams and prerequisites. Certifications are valid for two to five years, depending on the type. After that timeframe, you need to recertify by either passing a recertification exam or advancing upward in Cisco’s certification program.
Like many other certifications, Microsoft Azure credentials are earned by passing an exam. Azure certification requires a strong understanding of virtual machines, Azure subscriptions, identity management, and six months of experience administering Azure. You can earn various certification levels, from associate to expert. For those looking to earn the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate credential, Microsoft offers various self-study materials to help you prepare for the exam.
Sean Peek and Sara Angeles contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.