The Pros and Cons of a Virtual Data Center

January 28th, 2013

With so many companies looking to revamp their Data Centers in the next few years does it make sense to go virtual in the next step?

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President of Operations and CTO at SafeSourcing.

Companies all over the world, including SafeSourcing, are making big decisions on moving their physical on-site data centers into a hosted virtual environment.  To quickly define what this means, it is the concept of creating virtual servers in a safe environment that act exactly like a physical server costing tens of thousands of dollars.  Each instance can be expanded or scaled back at a moment’s notice without the expense of shutting a server down and installing expensive hardware peripherals. In some cases the move can remove the use of dozens of servers consolidating them into the same number (or more) virtual instances that run on just a few pieces of computer hardware.

Obviously there are some advantages to going virtual as well as cost, performance, scalability, standardization and ease of use factors that should be considered when making these decisions.  Today we will look at a few of the benefits from moving to a virtual data center environment.

Cost Change – The first question many people ask in a switch like this is “how much does it cost?” or more importantly, “how much will I save?”  Answering this question depends a lot of the environment(s) you are looking to convert.  Converting one or two servers to a virtual instance will not see nearly as good of a return as those that are converting larger numbers.  The savings is present in both, however.  Virtual instances can be upgraded through the years with software, as the cost to upgrade the hardware is usually held by the ISP managing the virtual instances.  This cost occurs for many companies every 2-5 years at $10,000+ a physical server can mean big savings.  Besides those hardware costs there are also the reduction of costs normally associated with scaling servers up or down as seen below.

Scalability – Another problem with physical servers, apart from the cost aspect, is that they are difficult to scale easily.  This means adding more memory, more bandwidth, more hard disk space to increase speed or to add capabilities.  These typically require a technician to physically access the machine, usually power it down, invest time to install the new hardware and bring it back up all in a way that they hope will come with no issues.  There are several cost, productivity and security issues with this scenario that are eliminated in a virtual server environment.  Because the virtual servers are actually software only, they can have more hard drive space, or processing power or network bandwidth allocated to them with a click of mouse from thousands of miles away if need be.  This allows fast growing companies to adjust their environments as quickly as they are expanding the business at a greatly reduced cost.

Separation of applications – Virtually any IT professional will tell you that if it were up to them they would have each server running only an application or two in their data center.  Doing so would remove performance bottlenecks, more easily control security and would allow them to troubleshoot any situation quicker because the culprit would be coming from a smaller group of applications.  As any CFO will tell you the cost of being able to achieve that with physical servers is an impossibility.  Having your data center in a virtual environment may not be able to achieve the IT professional’s dream, but it can get them most of the way there as virtual server instances can easily be created at a fraction of the cost of physical servers.  Web servers, database servers, application servers, test servers, development servers can now be located in their own unique server instance allowing heavily used applications to grow in their own instance without having to upgrade hardware for every other application.

To understand more about how we can help you begin to layout the sourcing aspects of a move to a virtual data center, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.

We look forward to your comments.

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