Article by Nicola Manica

What is Virtualization?

In ICT departments we hear always more talks about Virtualization. Who passes from an ICT virtual architecture to a traditional one unlikely changes his mind. But what do we mean with ‘Virtualization’? And above all, what does it allow to do?

‘Virtualization’ means the possibility to create some virtual components by abstracting from hardware components of a computer.

There are a lot of types of Virtualization and, in particular, the ones that enable a deep change in the ICT services methodology of distribution, can be enclosed in 3 categories: Network Virtualization, Server Virtualization and Desktop Virtualization.

Network Virtualization: it allows to create, add and divide networks in a simple and dynamic way, by removing switch and router dependency. Physical network devices become channels in which network logics is totally managed by software components. It simplifies every company network change without the need to touch the wiring.

Server Virtualization: it allows to create virtual machines on which to execute softwares needed for company business development. Singular features on specific machines can be nimbly isolated. For example inbox server could be executed on a different machine from the management software, increasing, in this way, protection in case of malwares. These could operate just on a single service and not on the whole company domain. The unique console for virtual machines management decreases complexity in adding new resources, simplifies backups and reduces maintenance times. Furthermore, the most modern management consoles help also troubleshooting by informing the ICT Manager before they could be actually perceived by the user. Last but not least, Server Virtualization has been one of the enabling technologies to what we call today Cloud Computing.

Desktop Virtualization: it provides the possibility to centralize resources available to every user. Adding new workstations will not require to buy new devices, optimizing in this way hardware resources already available in the company. Furthermore, this technology enables company mobility, which will be always more widespread: every user will find all his resources available, independently from where he will connect and without invalidate company needs about security and data protection. It will also enable the use of Thin Clients, devices that can provide the same experience as a traditional PC, but increasing energy saving.

When a new virtualization project is to be faced, often some fears emerge. The main critique is about the starting costs that a project like this brings. Calculate the overall costs is a matter that requires a specific detailed study, I can just grant that the initial cost of the project is free, not only in terms of hours spent for the system maintenance, but also in terms of money saved by the company.

Another fear is about the lack of competence in starting such a project. Becoming experts in this area surely requires a lot of years of investigation and experience, but it is also true that with the great dissemination of these systems, management consoles became easily manageable also by beginners. The possibility to find best practise on the internet, provided by the main company providers of this service, make also easier the selection and design of the best hardware for the company needs.

Moreover, it is a common thought that the switch from a traditional ICT system to a virtual one would necessarily require a service downtime, and this is something that can scare some companies. Precisely thanks to the flexibility of a virtualized system features, it is possible to recreate a test ambient in which to reproduce all company workflows and send the system to production only once fully satisfied.   

Therefore, there are no more reasons why virtualization could scare. It is a yet widespread technology that allows companies to be ready and responsive to the new job market, by drastically reducing costs of future operations. In the next years it will make on-site maintenance disappear.  

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