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Virtualization

Virtualization is a software technology that enables entities to run multiple operating systems (OSs) and applications on the same server simultaneously (VMWare, 2016). The technology is continuously transforming the IT environment and fundamentally transforming the manner in which entities use various technologies. As of consequences, there are numerous brands of virtualization software in the market. These include Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1 Enterprise, VMWare vSphere Enterprise, IBM PowerVM Enterprise, Citrix and Redhat among others (SoftwareInsider, 2016; van der Lans, 2012). Virtualization improves IT agility, scalability, manageability and flexibility while helping to create considerable cost savings. Availability and performances increase, workloads are deployed faster and operations become more automated. It results in an IT landscape that is not only easier to manage, but also less costly to operate and own. Due to the broad scope of the subject, this research focuses on Microsoft, IBM and VMWare virtualization software. The paper provides comparison and contrast of these virtualization brands focusing on components, including hardware requirements, standard configuration and price. Additionally, the paper explores major pros and cons; thereafter, recommending the best virtualization software out of the three brands. Further, the advantages and disadvantages of implementing virtualization in an enterprise environment are highlighted.

Comparison and Contrast of the Top Three Brands of Virtualization Software

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1 Enterprise

Hyper-V server is a product of Microsoft Corporation designed for both Small-Medium business and enterprises (Palmer, 2011). The software is provided through proprietary licensing terms. For 25 Client Access Licenses, Microsoft Hyper-V is licensed at $3,919 (SoftwareInsider, 2016). It supports both hardware assisted and full visualization. In addition, the software can be deployed on x86 and x64 platforms (Lee, 2009). Supported storage technologies include Firewire, DAS, FC, SATA, iSCSI, SCSI, PATA and USB (Troppens, Erkens, & Muller, 2014). Some of the industries in which the software has been widely adopted, include Aerospace, Automotive, Agriculture, Construction, Entertainment, Engineering, Education, Manufacturing and Healthcare among others. The virtual machine limits for Hyper-V include 4 vCPUs, 12 NICs and a RAM of 64 per VM. The host server limits for Hyper-V include 384 VMs, a RAM of 1,024 GB, 64 logical CPUs, and 512 vCPUs per Host.

 

VMWare vSphere

VSphere is a VMware-based virtualization technology intended for enterprise use. It supports hardware assisted virtualization, full virtualization and paravirtualization, as well as x86 and x64 bit architectures. The storage technologies supported by VMWare are limited to DAS, SATA, iSCSI and SSD for Swap. The VM limits for VMWare 128 virtual CPUs, 10 virtual network interface cards (NICs) and a random access memory (RAM) of 4,000 GB per VM (SoftwareInsider, 2016). The host server limits for VMWare include 1,024 VMs, a memory of 6,000 GB, 480 logical processors, 4,096 vCPUs per Host (SoftwareInsider, 2016). It is popular among government, healthcare, education and financial services industries.

IBM PowerVM Enterprise

PowerVM is an IBM product designed for enterprise use. Unlike the Hyper-V, which supports Bare Metal (Type 1) hypervisor, PowerVM supports hosted (Type 2) hypervisor. As a proprietary product, it is licensed on per-processor licensing arrangement. In contrast to other two softwares that support both x86 and x64 bit architecture, PowerVM supports power architecture. With the exception of iSCSI and DAS storage technologies, PowerVM supports all other storage technologies supported by Hyper-V. Moreover, the technology has a limit of 1000 virtual machines and a RAM of 4,096 GB per host. The host server limits for PowerVM include 1,000 VMs, a RAM of 4,096 GB, and 1,024 vCPUs per Host (SoftwareInsider, 2016). The virtual machine limits for PowerVM include 256 vCPUs, 12 NICs and a RAM of 4,096 GB per VM.

Pros and Cons of Top Three Virtualization Software

The increasing awareness of the advantages that result from the adoption of virtualization technology are largely induced by the competition, scarcity of resources and government regulations (Burger, 2016). As noted by VMWare (2016), the company provides an industry-leading platform with the ability to support all levels of virtualization, including server virtualization, desktop virtualization and software-defied data center. The wide adoption of vSphere in the financial services industry makes it more suitable for banking entities. Additionally, both Linux and Windows platforms support vSphere. In regards to supported guest operating system, VMWare supports Fedora, CentOS, Mac OS X, Free BSD, Debian Sarge, OpenBSD, openSUSE and Novel Linux Desktop among others (SoftwareInsider, 2016). Some of the beneficial management features common across the technologies include storage migration, dynamic resource allocation, failover, live migration and capacity planning. Additionally features found in VMWare include performance metrics and change reports. Other pros and cons of the identified virtualization technologies are summarized in Table 1.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Virtualization Technology

Advantages of Virtualization

Server Consolidation
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Virtualization is an integration of hardware and software technologies used to create virtual machines (VMWare, 2016). The virtual machines are abstractions of a computing infrastructure (hardware) that enables a single physical machine to act as multiple instances of a machine (Waters, 2007). Therefore, all the hardware resources are shared by multiple operating systems, running their VMs. In other words, virtualization creates an environment whereby multiple operating systems run on the same physical platform. Virtualization technology enables server consolidation, implying that more than one server application can run on a single physical machine concurrently (Palmer, 2011). It is beneficial because, under conventional configurations, each application would have been deployed on its physical machine to provide technical specification environment and unique operating system requirements. In that regard, server utilization is maximized and legacy application can maintain old operating system configurations, while new server application runs on virtual machines with updated platforms (Burger, 2016). Despite the fact that a virtualization-enabled server has more CPUs, memory and other hardware than conventional servers do, it utilizes less power and occupies on the space of a single server reducing real-state expenditure and utility costs (Tate et al., 2015).

Testing, Development and Deployment

The use of virtualization technology permits rapid deployment of application by isolating the test application in a controlled and known environment. In that line, unknown factors, including mixed libraries due to numerous installations are eliminated. Additionally, server crashes that often require more time and expertise for reinstallation take moments by migrating a backed copy of the virtual machine.

Improved System Security and Reliability

Virtualization helps IT managers to prevent system failures or crashes due to memory corruption, which is often caused by system drivers (Waters, 2007). Server virtualization provides methods for controlling system devices by predefining the architecture for interrupt remapping and direct memory access (DMA). Such methods ensure that isolation of input/output resources is improved for better availability, security and reliability.

Disaster Recovery and Dynamic Load Balancing

Disaster recovery is one of the critical elements of information security because system crashes can result in huge economic losses (Burger, 2016). Through virtualization, a virtual image of a system can be copied on another machine if a failure occurs. In addition, virtualization is beneficial since it enables IT managers to move VMs that require more resources to underutilized servers. The dynamic load-balancing feature ensures that serves are optimized. For these reasons, virtualization reduces power consumption as well as air conditioning demands in server rooms or datacenters (Troppens, Erkens, & Muller, 2014). Moreover, the technology enables companies to trim the physical space that would be used to house servers. Furthermore, visualization technology improves the availability of critical applications. In the same context, the technology streamlines the deployment and migration of application without affecting business continuity. Consequentially, virtualization enables companies to simplify their IT operations and respond rapidly to the ever-changing consumer and business demands.

Disadvantages of Virtualization

Every technology has both advantages and disadvantages, and virtualization is not an exception. Some of the disadvantages include limited experience, proprietary development language, extra layer of software or infrastructure and a single point of failure (Laan, 2013). Given that there is no universal standard for virtualization, each software uses proprietary language; hence, there is a challenge in switching from one product to the other (van der Lans, 2012). In addition, incompatibilities may occur between some applications and virtualized software. According to Glister (2014), entities tend to overlook the disadvantages of virtualization because of misconceptions propagated by marketers. One of the misconceptions is that server applications that run on a conventional physical machine require lesser resource than on the virtualized platform (Gilster, 2014). However, virtualization adds overhead to the existing infrastructure. For instance, clustering to remedy the risk of using a single server often comes with additional installation and administration costs (Troppens, Erkens, & Muller, 2014). Additionally, applications that normally use high-end resources, such as real-time SCADA-based application, rarely run efficiently on a virtualized server (Laan, 2013).

The Suitability of Virtualization in the Enterprise-Enabled Environment

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From the review and discussion above, it is apparent that virtualization technology fits the contemporary needs of an enterprise-enabled organization because of the necessity to create and sustain competitive advantages without compromising revenue and quality of products and services (Brunelle, 2012; Burger, 2016). By implementing virtualization, organizations are able to deploy workloads faster, improve performance, increase service availability as well as the automation of services. For instance, through virtualization, customers can enjoy the convenience induced by mobile banking services, which rely on virtualization, and the related technology of cloud computing. Consequentially, the bank benefits from improved sales or traffic, which translates into improved revenue (Bank of America, 2016). Observably, the software technology not only benefits enterprise enabled entities, but also benefits its consumers. Moreover, virtualization improves an organizations compliance with security regulations within its industry in the sense that it improves the availability and security of informational assets (Bank of America, 2016). Virtualization in broad perspective and server virtualization in particular make a perfect sense for the organizations data centers because it enables IT managers to optimize the efficiency of in-house servers and improve scalability, as workload demands flows and ebbs critical to keeping operational cost down and revenues up (Tate et al., 2015). Table 1 below summaries the benefits, limitations, costs, computer requirements and future savings associated with the implementation of the highlighted virtualization brands.

Table 1

Summary of the Advantages, Disadvantages, System Requirements, Initial Costs and Savings of Three-Virtualization Software

Virtualization Software

Advantage

Disadvantage

Computer Requirements

Initial Costs

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1 Enterprise

Phone technical support

High level of consistency and performance at firmware level

Supported by both Linux and Window platforms

Supported host OS is limited to Windows Server

Lowest RAM capacity per VM (only 64 GB)

Does not support network-attached storage (NAS)

x86 and x32 architecture

Type 1 (Bare Metal) hypervisor

SCSI and IDE supported drives

$ 3,919 for a 25 Client Access Licenses

IBM PowerVM Enterprise

Per-processor licensing

Support paravirtualization

24/7 technical support

Real-time alerts

Highest (256) vCPUs per VM

Limited to Linux platform

Supports only power architecture

Does not support both paravirtualization and hardware assisted virtualization

Power architecture

Type 2 (Hosted) hypervisor

Per-processor licensing

VMWare vSphere Enterprise

Per-processor licensing

Industry leader and extensive knowledgebase

Real-time alerts

Performance metrics

Onsite technical support

Suitable for government and financial industries

Supported by both Linux and Window platforms

Supports most of the open source OS as guest operating systems.

Does not support USB, PATA and Firewire storage technologies

 

x86 and x32 architecture

Type 1 (Bare Metal) hypervisor

Standard x86-compatible PC

$ 2, 875 For one processor with a virtual RAM of 64 GB per processor

Production - $719

Basic -$ 604

Conclusion

Modern application, desktop, network, server and storage virtualization technologies provide organizations with an ooportunity to create scalable, manageable, secure and flexible infrastructure that uses the underlying hardware to its optimum level. At the center of these virtualization technologies is the preeminence of brands, such as Microsoft Hyper-V Server, VMWare vSphere Enterprise, Citrix, IBM PowerVM Enterprise and Redhat. Various industries will continue to adopt and implement virtualization for various reasons: improving the efficiency of servers; testing software in isolated virtual machines; gracefully and virtually shifting the workloads, corporate priorities, and new technologies in data centers. In summary, the future of information technology management will rely on virtual computing.

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