1.2. Reasons to Use Virtualization

There are many different good reasons for companies and organizations to invest in virtualization today, but it is probably safe to assume that financial motivation is number one on the list: virtualization can save a lot of money. Below is an overview of the key benefits of virtualization.

Table 1.2. Reasons to Use Virtualization



Resource optimization

Today's enterprise level computer resources are so powerful that they often have excess capacity. By virtualizing the hardware and allocating parts of it based on the real needs of users and applications, the available computing power, storage space and network bandwidth can be used much more effectively. Computers no longer need to be idle or performing below their capabilities because there are fewer connected users, or because the hosted application happens to be less demanding than the server can handle.

Virtual machines offer software developers isolated, constrained, test environments. Rather than purchasing dedicated physical hardware, virtual machines can be created on the existing hardware. Because each virtual machine is independent and isolated from all the other servers, programmers can run software without having to worry about affecting other applications, or external components affecting the execution of their code.


It is common practice to dedicate individual computers to a single application. If several applications only use a small amount of processing power, the administrator can consolidate several computers into one server running multiple virtual environments. For organizations that own hundreds or thousands of servers, consolidation can dramatically reduce the need for floor space, HVAC, A/C power, and co-location resources. This means the cost of ownership is reduced significantly, since less physical servers and floor and rack space are required, which in turn leads to less heat and power consumption, and ultimately a smaller carbon footprint.

Maximizing Uptime

Agility is all about being able to respond to changing requirements as quickly and flexibly as possible. Virtualization brings new opportunities to data center administration, allowing users to enjoy:

  • Guaranteed uptime of servers and applications; speedy disaster recovery if large scale failures do occur.

  • Instant deployment of new virtual machines or even aggregated pools of virtual machines via template images.

  • Elasticity, that is, resource provisioning when and where required instead of keeping the entire data center in an always-on state.

  • Reconfiguration of running computing environments without impacting the users.

Automatically Protect Applications from Server Failure

Server virtualization provides a way to implement redundancy without purchasing additional hardware. Redundancy, in the sense of running the same application on multiple servers, is a safety measure: if for any reason a server fails, another server running the same application takes over, thereby minimizing the interruption in service. This kind of redundancy works in two ways when applied to virtual machines:

  • If one virtual system fails, another virtual system takes over.

  • By running the redundant virtual machines on separate physical hardware you can also provide better protection against physical hardware failure.

Easily Migrate Workloads as Needs Change

Migration refers to moving a server environment from one place to another. With most virtualization solutions it is possible to move a virtual machine from one physical machine in the environment to another. With physical servers this was originally possible only if both physical machines ran on the same hardware, operating system and processor. In the virtual world, a server can be migrated between physical hosts with entirely different hardware configurations. Migration is typically used to improve reliability and availability: in case of hardware failure the guest system can be moved to a healthy server with limited downtime, if any. It is also useful if a virtual machine needs to scale beyond the physical capabilities of the current host and must be relocated to physical hardware with better performance.

Protect Investment in Existing, Legacy Systems

Server hardware will eventually become obsolete, and switching from one system to another can be difficult. In order to continue offering the services provided by these legacy systems, you can run it as a virtual machine on new, modern hardware, while the legacy system itself still behaves as if it were running on the same legacy hardware. From an application perspective, nothing has changed. In fact, its performance may well benefit from the newer underlying hardware. This gives the organization the time to transition to new processes without worrying about hardware issues, particularly in situations where the manufacturer of the legacy hardware no longer exists or cannot fix broken equipment.