ICT Transformation

Virtual Reality

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While the cloud currently dominates data centre discussions, another significant information technology (IT) transformation is taking place. Driven by shrinking capital budgets, data centre managers are looking to optimise their existing infrastructure and maximise the investments already made. And increasingly, this is being achieved through virtualisation.

Virtualisation – the decoupling of application software and operating systems from the underlying server hardware – is at the heart of the cloud business model. It enables physical server resources (processor and memory) to be dynamically allocated among multiple applications (i.e. workloads), even those from different tenants – a necessary factor for economic delivery of shared cloud services. 

Without virtualisation, cloud providers could not afford to offer capacity on demand, in increments as short as an hour at a time. 

The same factors appealing to cloud providers are attractive to enterprise data centre managers. “Virtualisation enables enterprises to squeeze more utility from their server hardware,” notes Frost & Sullivan’s head of information and communication technologies, Chantel Lindeman. “It extends server life, reduces capital investment in new hardware, and adds flexibility to the IT environment. As a result, virtualisation is rapidly gaining a foothold in enterprise data centres.” 

Through the completion of recent research studies, Frost & Sullivan has observed the investment choices and priorities across a broad range of data centre challenges, not only those related directly to cloud computing. These investment options have shifted from the traditional investment in managed services offering to the server and desktop virtualised environment. Key players leading these virtualised product offerings are Business Connexion, T-Systems and Dimension Data. 

Frost & Sullivan believes the key benefits associated with virtualised offerings within a data centre environment are cost avoidance, application mobility and ease of implementation. 

Cost avoidance 

The standard configuration of servers can be remarkably inefficient. With a single application per server, generally configured for peak load, the average server utilises only 30% of its processor capacity. 

Despite the excess capacity in traditional data centres, each new application receives a new server, incurring capital costs for the server itself and increased operating costs for power and cooling, as well as labour for server configuration and ongoing maintenance. 

Virtualisation is the solution to expand capacity at minimal cost, by maximising the use of existing resources. The enterprise can avoid or defer the purchase of new servers and equipment; when new servers are required, they can purchase higher capacity servers at a proportionally lower cost than multiple smaller servers. 

At the same time, virtualisation saves energy costs and, by decreasing the overall footprint, avoids or defers build out of the data centre. 

Application mobility 

Virtualisation can assist the business in achieving its goals for high availability, ‘always on’ applications. 

Virtualisation methods (VMs) encapsulate applications with the associated configuration instructions, resulting in asingle object that can be moved around as easily as a Windows file. This makes it extremely easy to implement business continuity plans. Because the hypervisor largely masks the differences between server models and types – eliminating the need for server-specific configurations – the VMs can easily transition among the entire stable of a company’s old and new servers. 

Ease of implementation 

In traditional data centres, IT departments are too often cast as the villains whose slow pace obstructs business growth. When another department (e.g. marketing or product development) identifies a need for an application, it can take months for IT to work through the necessary processes before the app can launch: from capital budget approvals to equipment purchase to implementation and testing. 

In contrast, a VM can be built in a matter of hours or even less. 

Frost & Sullivan expects virtualised offerings to overtake the uptake of managed services as companies look to move over their data centre offerings into this environment. 

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