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For most of our newer server setup, we are moving towards setting up servers in a virtual machine environment. This is usually because it makes sense to separate some of the functions such as AD, Exchange Server, SQL server, File Server or Remote Desktop Server, but at the same time keeping everything on a single physical server.

What is the some of the benefits to doing this?

The most obvious is to have less hardware. Hardware can added up over time and eventually you may have 4 or 5 servers unexpectedly. When this happens – hidden cost of power and management start to arise. Less hardware also can equate to less cost. However this isn’t as clear cut as it seems. Physical servers that are used to be the host for virtual servers need to be “souped-up” with more memory and hard drive capacity. Also the Microsoft Windows Server operating system will be an additional cost of each virtual machine.

Another benefit is flexibility. Having virtual servers allows you to spin up a new server virtually to fill a certain function. It also allows you bring servers down that are not needed pretty easily, without even being at the location. This can come in the form of moving the server from one location to another. On a physical server you are stuck with that box, but in a virtual world you can in theory move it from one server to another server fairly easily. Doing this will allow you to be more flexible in reviving your servers if problems occur with one of the physical servers and it also allow you to do some interesting backups schemes since entire virtual machines can be backed up in a one snapshot.

A last but unforeseen benefit may be moving your server into the cloud someday. As your organization grows and maybe expands to different location, it may suddenly make sense to move your virtualized server into the cloud in a hosted data center environment.

Virtualization may go overboard. For a smaller organization where only a single file server is needed, it may just make sense to go with a traditional route. Virtualizing for the sake of just doing it is not a good idea and in fact in can have some unexpected consequences. If virtualization is not done correctly, network connectivity or usage of resources on the physical server may become more complex. Also virtualization of one machine is in essence running 2 machines the physical server and the virtualized one, which seems a bit pointless.

Overall IT consulting has a new tool called virtualization. Besides the clout that it gives as a new and upcoming trend, it does provide some pretty amazing flexibility and also save money once you start scaling the quantity of servers needed.