With the ever changing IT industry and the demand for more speed and power with higher resilience, more and more companies are considering the idea of virtual infrastructure for presenting users with information, applications and even the operating systems they need to do their jobs effectively.
The idea of having locally installed applications and files is quickly becoming a thing of the past with many focusing on publishing or streaming information centrally. For example, hosted Exchange and hosted Sharepoint/CRM are becoming more popular in the industry. This is primarily due to their high availability at a lower cost with lower risk.
Buzz words such as The Cloud, unified messaging and virtualization are quickly becoming industry norm and the demand these services are quickly rising. The question is, are these products right for you and your company?
In my series of blogs I will be looking at some of these technologies and discussing their advantages, limitation and relevance to businesses today as well as looking at alternative suggestion where some of these technologies don’t fit bill.
In this Blog I will try and attempt to paint a basic picture of what these technologies do and build on this in later Blogs where I will discuss my recommendations on how to achieve the best from these technologies. So let’s get to it:-
Cloud Computing / Hosting
The term Cloud actually refers to the internet. Due to the advancement of the internet in the last few years, many companies are finding placing appropriate services such as email/CRM/collaboration in a hosted environment as these are more resilient, less complex and increased accessibility, thus extending the capabilities of your IT infrastructure without high capital expenditure on systems that will depreciate.
As its name suggests is the concept of running a virtual instance of something, this could be applications, hardware, Desktops, Servers. So let’s look at some of these in more detail…
Server / Operating System Virtualization
O/S virtualization in its most basic form is the use of virtual machine software called a Hypervisor to allow multiple operating systems to run on either a single or group of server thus allowing you to fully utilize your system resources while keeping conflicting and resource hungry programs separate. The Job of the hypervisor is to allocate the required amount of resource (memory/CPU Time/ Disk space) to the server instance install on it. Put simply this concept means you can use a piece of software to install more than one server on physical box or group of boxes. There are many different hypervisors out there but by far the most popular are VMware’s Esx/Esxi, Microsoft’s Hyper V and Citrix’s Xen Sever.
This is the use of software to encapsulate (wrap) an entire desktop environment creating an image and then presenting this to a user by mean of other pieces of software such as a provisioning server and/or connection brokers. A provisioning server will create a new operating system on a hypervisor from the image for the users login or push this image over to a dumb terminal. A connection broker looks at the available provisioned desktops and then creates a connection to one which is not in use. Put simply this means you can use software to create 1 desktop environment (for example a windows pc with office) and then send a copy of this to loads of other machines regardless of what o/s they are running and in most cases the client machine does not need allot of resources. In other word you could run windows 7 on a windows 2000 machine as long as you have enough bandwidth. The most popular software to achieve this would be Xen Desktop or Vmwares View.
Imagine being able to get to your bespoke and office applications from anywhere on any machine (provided you have a good internet connection.) The Idea behind application virtualization is that your apps are installed and run on a remote machine and the either published or streamed to your machine and all you do is interact with your apps over the web. This means that nothing is installed on the client machine apart from the O/S of cause. So if your machine Dies put it to the side get a temp logon to you web site and away you go. The Most popular software to achieve this is Citrix XenApp, Microsoft’s App-V
In My next Blog I will be looking at Server/Operating system virtualization and best practice, looking at whether this technology fits into your company or not. Due to the “all eggs in one basket” issue, to virtualize correctly can be a very expensive option and if done incorrectly, can be a recipe for disaster!
The question you need to ask yourself if you already have a virtualized system is how was it set up and were corners cut in order to achieve a budget… More on this next time!