Server Virtualization Architecture and Implementation
Once legacy systems are migrated to a consolidated, virtual environment, standardized images can be built and cloned to ensure
integrity. High availability systems and clustered environments can be
quickly configured with virtual machines.
Strategic initiatives can start with standardized images as a launching
pad for new applications builds. When physical hosts need to be retired
or phased out, virtual machines can easily be moved to the new platform
with little interruption. Products such as Virtual Motion and Xen can
move virtual machines on the fly, with little or no user downtime.
Virtualization in the IT Strategic Plan
Virtual servers should be a component in any Information Technology
Strategic Plan (ITSP). As organizations plan for technologies,
roadmaps are developed in one, three, five, seven, and out years. For
example, an ITSP might have biometric readers on a three year plan,
while an enterprise resource planning (ERP) upgrade is on a five year
outlook. Virtualization technologies will fall in the one to three year
planning cycle for most organizations.
The goal of IT projects and initiatives is to create business opportunities or generate cost savings. Virtualization is a key component in
several planning areas:
• expanding business lines, such as shared and dedicated hosting;
• faster deployment, time to market;
• increased standardization, leading to lower total cost of ownership;
• consolidation efforts; and
• increased utilization of computing capital.
There are various other possibilities where virtual server technologies could create opportunities or cost savings. As business goals are
defined and objectives determined by the business, virtualization
technologies should be considered as one of the ways IT can help meet
Enterprise architecture is “the organizing logic for business process
and IT infrastructure capabilities reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model” [ 13].
Enterprise architecture seeks to align business goals and organizational needs with technology. The idea is to plan, deploy, and manage
technologies to meet business objectives. Similar to the IT strategic
plan, virtualization technologies have their place in the enterprise
Ross mentions two important concepts in her definition of enterprise architecture: integration and standardization. Virtual servers
offer increasingly flexible methods of systems integration. Hot
failovers, highly available systems, real-time relocation of virtual systems, dynamic reallocation of system resources, and even wide-area
network disaster recovery (backup) are integrated with virtual servers.
The “data-center in a box” concept is a physical device with many integrated virtual servers that performs data center functions such as
routing, messaging, and directory services.
Virtual servers go a long way towards standardization for infrastructure operations. Servers can be commoditized using the “gold image”
model, where a virtual machine with the latest compliant system configuration is used to build new servers, ensuring standardization and
change control. This also reduces risk of misconfiguration or non-con-figuration of features that may occur due to human error when building
and rebuilding physical systems. Common platforms serve as an enabler
for business objectives and other enterprise architecture components.
Initiatives such as ERP implementations and service-oriented architecture applications rely on infrastructure being available, standardized,
and usable. Virtual server technologies can be used as a building block
in standardization and integration in enterprise architectures.
Virtual Server Implementation
Implementation plans differ at every organization. What is applicable for
one industry or business may not work for others. However, there are
some common implementation techniques that transcend business lines.
VMWare, a leading vendor of virtualization products, uses the
VMWare Infrastructure Methodology (VIM): assess, plan, build,
manage. The process considers the existing inventory of systems, creates a
plan to “virtualize” the systems, install and configure the hosts, and
manage the new virtual server infrastructure. Many organizations will
follow these steps even if they are outside of the VIM methodology, but
the figures, processes, and systems will be different.
Organizations tend to start using virtual servers in development
systems, instead of production, to prove the new technology.
Generally, the lower service levels and less criticality of development
systems make an ideal choice to implement and evaluate the impact to
the environment before going to production.
Teranet, an e-commerce and government systems integrator, offers
a modified approach: perform the assessment, build a business case
for all servers, perform a proof-of-concept, build a business case for
all development and test servers, and, finally, deploy in phases. Using
this implementation methodology, Teranet successfully deployed
more than 270 virtual servers at a cost savings of over $3 million.
The phased approach was also used by Moen, the faucet manufacturer. Moen went through four phases of implementation, each integrating more virtualization technologies in the data center. In Moen’s
case, each phase had specific success criteria, such as cost avoidance, performance, cost reduction, and operating efficiencies [ 2]. The Moen team
carefully evaluated success factors, process changes, and implementation
goals following each phase. Moen also captured tangible and intangible
costs and benefits throughout the implementation. The figures below
show some of the types of costs and benefits identified by Moen.
Similar to the proof-of-concept approach, a pilot implementation
is another way to “kick the wheels,“ so to speak. Pilots offer a quick win
in many ways. Virtual server technology is proven during the pilot.
Figure 4: Moen tangible and intangible costs during implementation of virtual servers [ 2].