Virtualisation is here to stay

By Kevin Bailey, Director Product Marketing EMEA, Symantec

Virtualisation has now been around for a number of years, yet many businesses are still not implementing engines in a strategic way.

As IT managers face increased pressure to meet the changing demands of an IT infrastructure, supporting a growing number of applications on desktops from deployment through to retirement, as well as coping with the daily deluge of software conflicts can be a daunting task.

The increase in usage of software virtualisation technology will ease this pressure by eliminating conflicts, allowing organisations to deploy and fix applications quickly and ultimately reduce support costs and improve application reliability. However, storage virtualisation is not the solution, but just one component of an end-to-end storage management solution. Virtualisation engines should be planned alongside other IT strategies, such as business continuity, disaster recovery and general availability procedures, so that IT managers can holistically integrate it into their IT.

One of the challenges IT managers are facing is that most current systems management tools deployed to monitor the enterprise IT infrastructure are not always built with virtualisation in mind. A common complaint is that configuration database management tools do not work properly in dynamic virtual environments.

Users commonly experience problems with their applications slowing down and PCs failing to reboot as their system gets older and more littered with applications. Magnify this problem by a thousand users and it’s clear to see how productivity within an organisation could suffer and how quickly this could become an expensive problem. These problems occur when users install new software or application updates which share common resources and codes, resulting in conflicts, application failure or the reintroduction of security holes that were previously patched.

With this in mind, IT managers should seriously consider taking a look at software virtualisation technology which enables desktop applications to be run as virtual software packages, allowing users to switch applications on and off instantaneously to eliminate any conflicts. Applications can then be reinstalled remotely without adversely affecting the base Windows configuration. By simply switching an application on or off without needing to reboot, a user can keep their PC’s capacity under control as well as maximise its performance and resilience.

The technology works by deploying the software to a part of the file system that is normally hidden from Windows. As a result, the resources that are used by applications like Microsoft Word are isolated from the operating system or other applications that might have conflicting drivers.

IT managers can also use software virtualisation technology when testing and rolling out new versions of an application. Performing a successful upgrade to a business critical application is essential, but there is always a risk attached to changing or upgrading a package. If the application doesn’t work properly for some reason, the management team will not be interested in understanding why, they will just expect the application to be working again quickly.

Virtualisation technology can resolve upgrading issues by allowing users to simply roll back to the old version so they can continue working. This gives IT managers time to repair the damaged application before making the new package available again. In addition to this, virtualisation allows users to host multiple versions of an application on the same system giving them sufficient time to become familiar and comfortable with the new features of the package before they feel confident to move away from the old version.

Even though awareness of virtualisation has been around for some time, many IT managers still do not understand the technology and how it will change the way software is managed in the future. However, once more IT managers start looking at software virtualisation and begin to see the true value of the technology, it will only be a matter of time before IT infrastructures become completely virtualised. Organisations shouldn’t make the mistake of turning a blind eye to virtualisation as it is here to stay and will be used in the future by many IT departments in their quest to standardise IT infrastructures and achieve financial efficiencies.

Symantec (UK) Ltd is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2008 the UK’s definitive event for data storage, information and content management. Now in its 8th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme and over 100 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 15 - 16 October 2008

Source: StoragePR