You can start with Server Virtualization using the free Vmware Vsphere Hypervisor

You are running a small business, and have a couple of servers already running few applications – Like a Network OS/ CRM, etc. Now you want to install a new server based application – lets say, a VOIP Soft-switch. The vendor says that it needs to be installed in a server (for 24×7 operation, reliability, etc), but you are reluctant to invest in one more server as the number of users in your network is quite less. What do you do?

You would have heard of Server Virtualization which allows you to host multiple OS/Application pairs in a single server (with enough capacity for all of them). Basically, it creates Virtual Machines inside a single server which can all work independently in the same server (Each VM unaware of the existence of other VM’s) with dedicated resources for each.

Of course, this may not work in an old server with less processing capabilities. But most of the newer servers are good enough to be shared between multiple virtual machines. All you have to do is find out the peak utilization ratio of the installed applications in each server. If this is very less, like 20-30% you can easily accommodate other Virtual Machines in the same server.

VMware, is one of the leading server virtualization vendors in the industry and their basic server virtualization module (for single server) is called VMware vSphere Hypervisor and can be downloaded free of cost from their website.

Remember that this is a Bare-Metal Hypervisor. Which means, the server virtualization application would install on the bare server first (before installing any operating system) and the individual operating systems/ applications can be installed as independent virtual machines on top of this hypervisor. Its more like a operating system for the virtualized environment!

So, in the situation mentioned above, you might have to temporarily disconnect one of the higher capacity server and delete the operating system and applications installed in it (after backing them up – make sure you have the CD for re-installing them).

Now you can install the VMware vSphere Hypervisor on the bare-metal server. If you are new to virtualization, probably this application might help you. After this has been installed, you can create new virtual machines and install the operating system and applications to be hosted on each of them, individually.

The advantage of this method is, all the virtual machines installed on the same server is available to everyone at any point of time. So, the server resources are shared between multiple virtual machines in order to reduce the number of servers required for any environment.

Since we are reducing the number of physical servers required, you can enjoy cost reductions for power and cooling (multiple servers) in addition to the need for buying and maintaining multiple servers!

Of course, this free server virtualization application is only applicable to single servers and multiple servers need to be managed separately. Centralized management of multiple servers / migration of virtual machines from one server to another and other such advanced features are available only in the advanced commercial versions. But once you have tested the free application, you can always upgrade it to an advanced version later on.

The best thing about server virtualization is, each virtual machine on the same physical server can be running different operating systems and still be operating side by side!

VMware supports a cluster based file system for managing virtual machine files on shared storage (like NAS/ SAN, etc). You can also back up the virtual machines and their configurations in a local storage manually in order to restore them when required – Snapshots are also supported.

VMware Vsphere client is a free application that offers a GUI based management functionality for the virtual server hypervisor which helps you to monitor performance and resource utilization parameters and hardware fault monitoring for the host server.

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