back to article Virtualisation in the smaller business

Many of your comments on some of the virtualisation articles we have written to date have suggested that smaller organisations have different challenges and priorities when it comes to virtualisation. Here we report back on what we have been told so far and ask you for your insights. The majority of vendors assume that small …

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  1. Davros
    FAIL

    what advantages?

    Server consolidation is just not relevant. In my small business if I had dozens of under-utilised servers I wouldn't be interested in virtualisation I would be broke. All the reasons that enterprises end up with large numbers of servers each running one application are stupid reasons. Small business doesn't have the luxury to make such stupid decisions in the first place.

    We also don't have huge wads of cash to buy enormously expensive storage solutions that virtualisation seems to require. We look at our needs carefully and in most cases we find that we can store all the data we need and get the performance we need with pretty simple direct storage. SSDs add an option for very high performance on key (relatively small) data sets.

    What about high availability, disaster recovery, etc? Here virtualisation still disappoints - sure I can dynamically failover a running system from one box to another, but actually this is only slightly better than the wide choice of old-fashioned ways of failing over an application. And at least in the medium term, moving to a virtualisation based approach will actually be less reliable because we'll make mistakes using a system with which we are not familiar.

    I'm open to virtualisation, and perhaps it will eventually find its way into my business and businesses like mine, but so far the case is weak to say the least.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I likes

    You can virtualise without consolidated storage. Simple scripts shut down, copy to hotspare and power up our vms as a backup routine. Hardware dead? Power on the hotspare before you can say 'SLA'.

    If all your servers are running at 100% capacity, you're likely missing out on the market for customers who want dedicated machines, which can then be provided more affordably via VMs.

    (small biz sysadmin doing his bit for virtualisation :) )

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Many Advantages!

    With iSCSI support available for virtual servers, consolidated 'virtual' storage is accessible at a reasonable price for small business owners. Less expensive solutions from the likes of Buffalo and Drobo make virtual server clusters a viable solution. Using a VM - even for a single server - makes server migration - due to performance requirements or hardware failure - a much easier process. The only reason NOT to put your x86 servers in a VM in any sized business is if you have hardware devices that are not supported (communications devices or outdated hardware dongles for example). Direct hardware and storage simply means more time wasted in the future when you need to migrate to a new server - with virtualization this issue is gone. And as every small business owner knows - time is money.

    In the event of a need to perform maintenance on a single server, live migration of VMs to another server(s) can provide critical functionality that would otherwise require off-hours work and potential overtime for employees or outside support. Being able to change out a hardware component during business hours without taking down the email or file server is invaluable to a small business. The same can be said for installing a new physical server - once it has its hypervisor installed and is joined to the cluster, moving server loads to it is child's play. Even if the VM cannot be migrated 'live' - it can be done in minutes, not hours or days.

    VMs allow small businesses to right-size their servers and make them single purpose like the big guys - this isn't dumb - it allows maintenance on one function to leave other business functions up and fully functional. With Microsoft's licensing changes for virtualization it can be extremely cost effective (up to 5 servers per enterprise license).

    (Small business owner with virtualized hardware servers, a cost effective SAN and multiple right-sized task-specific VMs - DCs, email, DB, file, print, web, test, etc.)

  4. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    @Davros

    Nice to see your app vendors have ensured that you can run all of your various server applications concurrently on a given system so as to maximise server utilisation without requiring a tool such as virtualisation.

    Most of us aren't so lucky. In fact, every vendor we have to deal with, (have to...because alternatives simply don't exist in our industry,) makes some huge assumptions about your usage cases, which all basically boil down to "there will only ever be a requirement for one instance of their application, and it will be running on a dedicated machine.

    Start scaling that out, (where for example we have a requirement to run 15 or so copies of this "single instance application" and you suddenly require virtualisation.

    That in mind, it's been a godsend. I'd never go back.

  5. Vic Sub
    Thumb Up

    Virtualization as a kludge against progress

    I am one of those IT "generalists" that the article speaks of and it's true that I can only look on and salivate at the prospect of getting my hands on those high-priced delicious toys that the corporate guys get to play with.

    To give you some background, I am an IT consultant and work for a small (~6 employee) company in New York City which serves small to mid-range businesses. We've virtualized our internal environment easily enough (with VMware ESX server) for the benefits of lower electrical bills and not having to deal with outdated servers which chugg along and spawn headache after headache but never do you the courtesy of actually dying so you could replace them.

    But I'm rambling. I wanted to comment on a unique(?) reason for virtualizing a server or environment which might have been overlooked in all the back and forth on the subject. We have a client who since time immemorial has been running a Windows 2000 Server with Oracle on it. There are all sorts of scripts and web-based front-ends that have been piled on through the ages. There is some other outsourced DB Admin that manages the Oracle database. Other suppliers and wholesale cusomers interact with the system and their IT teams that poke and prod at the DB and its related patina of apps, add-ons and services.

    Noone wants to touch this mess. Noone dare utter the word "Upgrade".

    There is enough finger-pointing and bickering when there is a crash or when the server grinds to a crawl. Dread hangs in the air in anticipation of the day when the whole mess coughs up a lung and packs it in. The old stuff wont work with new Oracle. The old Oracle wont work with new Windows Server version. And even if it did, who would be stupid enough to take on the task of rebuilding this mess?

    Before half the fools in the NYC area jump out of their seats offering their services, keep in mind noone wants to actually PAY for the time and effort such a task would entail.

    So when the server finally took a crap and started running like its disks were filled with molassas, and the DB tinkerers all yelled in a chorus that they "Need More Power!" but dared not migrate to newer versions of anything, there was only one thing left to do!!!!

    "VMware Converter" to the rescue!!! It took the heaping pile of decade-old spaghetti and moved it into a Virtial Machine running on ESX Server. Now it has 100x more CPU horsepower and tons more RAM to throw at the hideously inefficient klunky database mess. Noone had to change thir ways and everything keeps chugging along without any pesky "progress" to get in the way!

    At least they're out of OUR hair.

    Thanks VMware!!!

    PS we also threw their 2003 AD\Exchange Server and their BlackBerry Enterprise server onto there as VMs. Can't run Echange and BB server on the same OS so now they have 1 physical server instead of 3 but that's a pretty common story i guess...

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