5 Things CIOs Should Know About Virtualization for SMB
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By Claude Goudrealt


For several years, most small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have left virtualization to the bigger enterprises. CIOs of smaller businesses have watched and waited for a virtualization option better suited to their needs. They should not wait any longer. The benefits of virtualization are now in reach for organizations of nearly every size, although SMBs have some particular considerations they must examine. For CIOs at SMBs, there are five important things to know about virtualization in today’s market.

 

1.  The benefits of virtualization are magnified for SMBs.

Virtual servers lead to more efficient use of resources, lower maintenance costs and faster server deployment, among other benefits. The increased agility and higher availability that virtualization makes possible are even more valuable to SMBs, which too often skimp on these areas due to cost concerns. Lack of availability can open the door to significant data loss, but virtualization mitigates this risk.

 

Additionally, virtualization lowers the maintenance expenses and total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT infrastructures. SMBs can also count on virtualization to decrease and eliminate planned and unplanned downtime, respectively, since a virtualized infrastructure can move workloads from one host to another. Perhaps most importantly, virtualization improves the end-user experience, enabling IT to migrate virtual servers and desktops between physical platforms without affecting user productivity.

 

2. SMBs face unique challenges not seen in larger enterprises.

The first such obstacle comes in the form of storage. Before virtual servers and virtual desktops can freely move between different hardware platforms, they must have common access to shared storage to transfer the running state of workloads between physical servers. One way to solve this challenge is with direct-attached disks with storage area networks (SANs) that interconnect to multiple servers.

 

SMBs should also note that the built-in safety nets against bottlenecks available in enterprise environments are not as likely to be present in smaller environments. Storage disruptions and slowdowns in physical servers are isolated to a single server or a single application, but these scenarios become far more serious in a virtualized environment.  Any single points of failure in a centralized SAN spread across the entire set of interconnected servers and potentially hundreds of virtual servers and thousands of desktops. SMBs must seek out virtualization platforms that deliver a safety net to avoid this problem.

 

3. Be wary of unanticipated deployment costs.

CIOs in large data centers certainly dislike surprise expenses. The SMB’s CIO, however, has to be far more cautious of such risks. Ask questions prior to deployment about the cost of project management, shared storage infrastructure development, higher availability and the performance requirements of centralized operations.

 

4. Initial low-end equipment investments can lead to higher TCO.

There is a trend in SMB virtualization to adopt equipment with superficially low price points. In many cases, these tools lead to higher TCO, since they create a complex infrastructure that is eventually too difficult to manage and unable to scale.  Rather than deceptively inexpensive modular options, SMBs should seek out complete solutions designed specifically for their needs.

 

5. Make the most of your existing technology.

Instead of removing your existing hardware and making unnecessary investments in new machines, deploy a virtualization solution that repurposes the hardware already deployed. Look for storage virtualization software that enables construction of virtual SANs using internal disks in each physical server, enabling you to turn a pair of existing servers into a dedicated, highly available and high-performance SAN.  Such options should also reduce the risk of data loss with continuous real-time replication.

 

For companies of every size, virtualization should simplify environments, not complicate them. With SMB-specific virtualization platforms now on the market, CIOs can select technology that delivers easy maintenance, affordable implementation and the scalability they seek.

Claude Goudreault is the CEO and founder of VM6 Software.  Claude is a visionary and a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in developing IT infrastructure for large enterprises. He specializes in designing solutions that allows companies to substantially reduce their IT total cost of ownership.




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