Pros and cons of server virtualization

In the first part of this two-part series, we discussed what physical servers are and their pros and cons. In this second part, we will do the same for virtual servers. After reading and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of physical and virtual servers, you will be in a better position to determine which server infrastructure best fits your company’s needs.

What is server virtualization?

Server virtualization is the process of using a physical server and dividing it into multiple, fully isolated and unique virtual instances. A virtual server is a virtual machine that functions just like a physical server but does so using software rather than hardware. While a virtual server still needs to be in a physical server to work, it can exist along with other virtual servers in the same physical machine. This sharing of hardware resources is made possible by a program called a hypervisor.

A hypervisor produces software-based counterparts of the resources (e.g., CPU) of the underlying hardware. It then assigns those counterparts (e.g., virtualized CPU) to ongoing workloads of virtual servers.

What’s more, a hypervisor runs directly on the underlying hardware. This means each virtual server runs its own operating system (OS) on top of the hypervisor.

How are physical servers different from virtual servers?

A physical server is hardware that can be seen and touched. In contrast, a virtual server is a software-based emulation of a physical server.

If your business uses different operating systems and programs, you’ll need at least one server per OS. This means you’ll need either plenty of physical servers — which takes up a lot of space and consumes a lot of power — or you’ll need multiple virtual servers, which can all be housed in at least one physical server.

What are the pros of using virtual servers?

Leveraging a virtual server infrastructure comes with a myriad of advantages.

1. Efficient use of hardware

Since one hardware server can host multiple virtual servers, you need less hardware. This means your business will need less physical space and consume less energy. In fact, with virtual servers, you may even opt not to have their underlying hardware on site and simply access them through the cloud.

2. Ease of deployment, configuration, and management

Since there are fewer hardware servers to manage, you can easily rollout server updates and upgrades with minimal to no downtime. You can even deploy programs like security software at the hypervisor level to centralize security controls and system administration. Plus, with virtual servers, you can automate changing system configurations and applying software patches, among other activities.

3. Fast backup and disaster recovery (BDR)

BDR involves making copies of data so that it can be restored should a data loss event occur.

With virtual servers, BDR is quick and easy. Should a virtual server fail, disaster recovery protocols and the immediate availability of the server’s backup make it easy for an IT admin to quickly shift the server’s workload to another virtual server.

4. Scalability

Within the boundaries of the underlying hardware, a virtual server’s capacity can easily be scaled up or down. In contrast, with physical servers, you would need to purchase and install new hardware to increase capacity. This means you’ll be stuck with unused hardware should you require less server capacity later on.

What are the cons of using virtual servers?

Virtual servers may not be ideal for some organizations due to the following reasons.

1. Costly hardware

While a virtual server infrastructure requires fewer machines, it would need a more powerful — hence more expensive — hardware server that can host multiple virtual servers.

2. Slower performance

Since virtual servers share the underlying hardware’s resources, virtual servers tend to run more slowly compared to physical servers. However, this happens only if the physical server that virtual servers are housed in is overloaded. It is also important to note that advancements in hypervisor technology over the years have greatly improved the performance and efficiency of virtual machines.

3. Possible compliance problems

If your organization must comply with strict data security regulations, such as HIPAA, then you may need to have direct control over the underlying hardware. If you are leveraging server hosting services, you must ensure that your provider keeps your infrastructure compliant with the necessary regulations.

Should your company choose a physical server or a virtual server?

The answer would greatly depend on your company’s unique requirements. Therefore, when deciding, you must consider your budget, existing IT staff, and most importantly, how you plan to use your server infrastructure.

Need more guidance in determining which type of server is best for your organization? The IT experts of SpectrumWise can help. Schedule your consultation with us today!


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