Server virtualization is no longer a shiny new technology that organizations are taking a look at. It has found its place in most data centers. Still, many organizations simply virtualize their server assets and walk away, failing to realize the full potential of a long-term virtualization strategy.
As a tactical tool, for example, virtualization does little to affect disaster recovery (DR). You can use virtual machines (VMs) to mimic physical servers, recover them from tape and restore them to identical hardware, but that adds little value.
As a long-term, strategic tool, however, virtualization can help your organization create a more flexible and agile DR strategy. Thanks to hardware abstraction, you do not need to restore VMs to identical hardware. In fact, you may be able to change the class of hardware, the physical network layout and even the backend storage without affecting your ability to recover VMs.
To take that a step further, there are a number of DR tools that allow you to recover physical production servers as virtual servers. This virtualization strategy brings an entirely new level of flexibility to your DR plan, opening doors that actually provide better coverage for less money.
You can make a similar argument for server backup: You could continue to back up VMs just as you would physical servers, and in almost every case, it will work just fine. But virtualization enables you to do so much more. You can get more granular in your backup settings, improve backup speeds and even reduce backup’s effects on performance.
DR and backups are just two of many areas in which a long-term virtualization strategy may bring extra value to your organization. Every day I hear of creative ways that people are using virtualization to provide new solutions to old business problems. I have seen organizations rapidly clone compromised VMs to get applications back up and running while also preserving forensic evidence, for root-cause analysis. I have even seen organizations automate the provisioning of resources in real-time to respond to increased demand.
Many organizations start using virtualization for tactical reasons, often in response to budget limitations (as is the case with server consolidation). Don’t let the journey stop there. Step back and develop a long-term virtualization strategy that will provide even greater value.
With virtualization, you may have thought you bought a tool. But you really bought a toolbox.