Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, September 24, 2023

Companies Enjoy Many Real Benefits of Virtualization 

When it's time to adopt cloud, many organizations embrace virtualization as one of their initial steps in this transformative process. But in addition to setting the groundwork for a move to cloud, virtualization delivers many benefits of its own.

Virtualization was the top priority for 2015 in a survey of 1,000 IT decision-makers by consulting firm Proviti. Approximately, 64 percent of respondents said their IT transformation projects focused on simplifying existing system and cutting costs; 55 percent wanted to enable new functionality. And whereas organizations first virtualized servers and desktops, now they're experimenting with virtualized software, storage, and networks.

Coca-Cola, for example, is working with non-profit the Cloud Security Alliance to develop a standard for software-defined perimeter (SDP), which is similar to a firewall and will only allow access to the cloud after vetting a user, Invest Correctly wrote. The system then provides a single-use VPN for the required app or service to prevent password theft.

Expanding the use of virtualization sounds good to enterprises and small businesses that have embraced the technology within their datacenters and desktops. As the chief operating officer of construction company Sierra Group, Monica Valenzuela oversaw human resources and IT, an area she had little experience in running, she told Enterprise Technology. The firm's aging on-premise system used Windows Server 2003, which was about to lose Microsoft's support, and employees used Windows XP – which also was about to come out of support – on old desktops, said Valenzuela.

"In addition to that whole mess, we had a problem with our servers and we couldn't figure out what it was. All of a sudden we had to reboot the servers in the middle of the day and it took us two hours to get back on," she recalled. "We had a lot of lost business hours. It would happen in the middle of the day and we would send people home. I would come in early on a Monday because when there was an update running over the weekend the computer would turn itself off but not turn itself back on."

Sierra Group was fed up with slow, poorly functioning servers. (Source: Mihai Maxim)

Sierra Group was fed up with slow, poorly functioning servers. (Source: Mihai Maxim)

When a solution provider recommended ripping and replacing its entire system, Sierra Group baulked: The price tag was too high and cash flow was too challenging for a small construction firm, said Valenzuela.

So when solution provider En Pointe recommended a dinCloud virtualization offering that allowed Sierra Group to continue using its antiquated hardware, the construction company embraced the idea, she said. Virtualization was part of an overall move to the cloud, which also allowed Sierra Group to relinquish its on-premise servers and take advantage of En Pointe's new technologies and expertise, said Valenzuela.

"You trust the experts to do what they do. I have peace of mind: I'm not wondering if this is going to work today. That's priceless," she said. We've had zero downtime. Setting up a new user takes me five minutes. They have a template for a cloud that has everything installed; they upload it and the computer automatically logs into it. In the past, I had to buy a computer and install all these programs. That would take me four or five hours. It's my sanity."

The Children's Miracle Network expected to complete about one-fifth of its virtualization project by the end of 2014; instead, 80 percent of the project was done by year's end and the charity was 100 percent virtualized by early 2015, Nick Ward, vice president of digital marketing told Enterprise Technology. The non-profit, which hopes to raise $1 billion annually through 2020 in support of 170 children's hospitals, also realized bigger benefits from its virtualization implementation, he said.

"Now that virtualization is a part of our environment, we use it to help assure quality, efficient testing, and promotion processes. So not only does it give us the ability to isolate, segregate, and ramp up production environments quickly, but we've also integrated virtualization into quality assurance," added Tony Rehmer, IT vice president, in an interview. "It helps us take snapshots, ramp-up, and roll back as well. It has helped us in our production but it has helped us maintain quality in the promotion process, too."

Solution provider CDW worked with and supported the not-for-profit, implementing a FlexPod converged infrastructure from VMware, Cisco, and NetApp.

CMN is exploring the option of using a virtual machine for cloud-based disaster recovery, he said. As a non-profit, the IT department must carefully consider each dollar spent.

"When you are a charity, you have to use your dollars to take care of the most realistic and day-to-day issues. If a server goes down, now we have a VM in place," said Rehmer. "That was part of our motivation for using the capital funds to build a virtual environment."



About the author: Alison Diana

Managing editor of Enterprise Technology. I've been covering tech and business for many years, for publications such as InformationWeek, Baseline Magazine, and Florida Today. A native Brit and longtime Yankees fan, I live with my husband, daughter, and two cats on the Space Coast in Florida.