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Sensing the virtual

01 Aug 10

While in an ideal world reducing carbon footprint would be a key business concern, in the real world ‘being green’ tends to fall further down the ladder, well below the top rungs of income and productivity. Fortunately, virtualisation and cloud computing infrastructure is allowing businesses to radically reduce their environmental impact, while offering signifi cant cost savings and improvements in productivity. At the most basic level, server virtualisation enables businesses of all sizes to run multiple virtual servers simultaneously on a single physical server. The cost savings associated with initial server consolidation efforts are considerable. Having the ability to run multiple virtual machines on each computer directly affects your bottom line by dramatically reducing hardware and software needs – and virtualising is just the beginning.
An entire virtual infrastructure, scaling across hundreds of interconnected physical computers and storage devices, can be built by using a virtualisation platform as the foundation for building private, public or hybrid clouds.
So what is cloud computing? Essentially this means that shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand.
‘Private clouds’ are when these resources are pooled and managed within the organisation using private networks. ‘Public Clouds’ are created when these resources are provided via the internet or via web applications/servers by an external party. ‘Hybrid Clouds’ are a combination of the two.
SMBs in particular stand to benefi t from these resources through greater access to new technologies and disaster recovery tools, without the need for upgrades to bigger and better hardware.
Maintenance downtime is eradicated through virtualisation. Instead it can be done while users continue to use virtual machines uninterrupted, meaning IT administrators no longer need to work weekends or evenings, or waste time contacting staff to schedule maintenance time. All maintenance changes and application upgrades can be done without interrupting the system, reaching users instantly.
Questions are often raised regarding security of sensitive data with virtualisation. Security is as good as, or often better than that under traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote more resources to solving security issues than many SMBs could afford.
But back to being green. Virtualisation can reduce energy costs by up to 80%. How? Firstly, every server virtualised saves 7000kWh of electricity annually. It is also possible to ‘power down’ servers automatically without affecting applications or users.
Virtualisation also enables your workforce to be much more mobile. Users are free to access their desktops securely and remotely from any location, using varied devices, from laptops and from smartphones. The benefi ts include greater fl exibility for staff and allocation of workspaces. Ironically, being much more mobile actually reduces the need for travel. With this comes lower fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Finally, while IT hardware continues to evolve at tremendous speed, life cycle of equipment continues to become shorter, resulting in burgeoning amounts of e-waste. By reducing your need for new hardware, you will be reducing the amount of e-waste being generated by your business.
While the business and green benefits of virtualisation for small businesses are tangible, successfully integrating virtualisation requires you to do your homework to ensure you are pursuing the most appropriate platforms for your company’s activities and needs.