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Virtualization is gaining a lot of attention today though the technology is well over half a century old. Virtualization is what paved the way for cloud computing, and though the two are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. However, there is a relationship between virtualization and cloud computing. The simplest way to think of the relationship is to consider virtualization as the keystone of all cloud services. Without virtualization technology, the methodology that is the cloud would not exist. In practice, virtualization is the software that manipulates the hardware and cloud computing is the services that result from that manipulation.

Why Virtualization is Gaining Popularity

Servers and other hardware are IT capital expenses of the highest kind. They require constant monitoring to prevent and react to hardware failures as well as needing replacement over time. Additionally, running server equipment is a significant operating expense. Often, enterprises big and small build or lease server space offsite in data centers. At the data centers, servers consume large amounts of energy, even when not actively engaged by the client.

According to a study by the National Resource Defense Council back in 2014, servers only operate at between 10 to 15% capacity while consuming massive amounts of electricity. Cutting energy usage by 40% would save an estimated $3.8 billion annually. Virtualization helps solve this inefficiency in server usage so enterprises and data centers can reduce the number of running servers.

Virtualization technology can increase efficiency while reducing costs by abstracting away the hardware needed to run a system. Through software, the server and other hardware including the CPU, storage, and networking are pooled together on a virtual machine (VM) in an isolated environment that is accessed by the client through a network connection. The software that creates the VM can partition several environments, which means a single server handles far more than it could without virtualization. This results in the need for fewer servers and less energy consumption.

Benefits of Virtualization

Computing power has increased considerably over time and operating on the old paradigm of a single server for a single operating system has seen an increase in inefficiency. Adopting the new virtualization paradigm has several benefits.

Server Consolidation for Cost Savings

Virtualization allows enterprises to collapse physical servers into a virtual server, which reduces the number of servers. The result is far less capital expenditure as well as operating expenses for powering and cooling. The energy footprint is also reduced at the data center. Data center footprints include UPS, network switching, rack and floor space, and diesel generator costs. Fewer servers mean less time used monitoring and administering physical hardware by administrators who can focus their attention on innovation.

Build a Cloud-Based Mindset

Virtualization is not cloud computing, but it allows for easy migration to the cloud. Virtual servers are portable and can be moved to a cloud service partner. By deploying VMs to and from the data centers, companies can create powerful cloud-based infrastructure as well. Virtualization allows businesses to get a head start in cloud computing by abstracting away all hardware and creating a cloud-based mindset. Virtualization helps pave the way for building a private cloud, which will evolve with time.

Support Off-Site Employees

Virtualization is highly mobile and quick to deploy. This means remote, and other offsite employees will have access to data, operating systems, software, and applications no matter where work takes them. Remote access has several built-in benefits that often result in great efficiencies for the company.

Support Business Continuity

Staying connected is paramount for success. Downtimes, even for a few minutes during business hours, can have severe effects on a company’s reputation and bottom line. Virtualization eliminates downtime and supports business continuity by creating full snapshots of server and network elements at the data center. This means if the server fails your VMs can move to another server in minutes with up-to-date data for faster re-deploy. Deploying virtualization fully supports your company’s disaster recovery plan and keeps your business running.

In today’s high-tech, global economy, companies large and small must reduce their capital expenses and increase their productivity to stay relevant. Virtualization, whether self-deployed or through a virtualization data center partner, can be the first step to creating efficiencies and moving to the cloud. Though there are some disadvantages, such as the upfront costs, software and application licensing considerations, and the possible learning curve of operating off of VMs, virtualization is the new paradigm and worth considering.