What is Virtual Infrastructure?
Virtual infrastructure is the result of separating physical hardware from an operating system into a virtual environment. With it, we can remove the inefficiencies of physical hardware, such as physical space, cost, and maintenance. Virtual infrastructure retains the benefits of physical resources but transfers them to software to make virtual resources more accessible and flexible.
What is a Virtual Infrastructure?
A virtual infrastructure allows you to utilize the IT capabilities of physical resources as software that can be used across multiple platforms. These resources are shared across multiple virtual machines (VMs) and applications for maximum efficiency, creating a virtual infrastructure.
Your business needs are the driving force behind dynamically mapping the physical resources of your infrastructure to applications – even as those needs evolve and change. This resource optimization drives greater flexibility in the organization and results in lower capital and operational costs. For example, aggregating your x86 servers along with network and storage into a unified pool of IT resources that can be utilized by the applications when and where they’re needed.
Virtual infrastructure requirements
There are certain virtual infrastructure criteria organizations must meet from design to recovery to reap long-term value from their investment.
- Appropriate Plan: IT teams should understand how business development, market volatility, and technological advances will influence their hardware requirements and dependence on computing power, networking, and storage resources during developing a virtual infrastructure.
- Cost Analysis: If IT teams don’t take the time to constantly review a virtual infrastructure and its deliverables, IT infrastructure costs can become unusable. Cost reduction strategies can vary from replacing old servers and renegotiating vendor contracts to automating server management activities that take time.
- Prepare for failure: Even the most robust virtual infrastructure can experience down, despite its hardware failure and high availability. By taking advantage of monitoring software, buying extra hardware, and depending on clusters to help handle host resources, IT teams can plan for worst-case scenarios.
Virtualization removes the need for hardware and storage resources. As a result, there are significant benefits that businesses can absorb. Chief among them is cost savings, reduced downtime, agility, increased productivity, and the ability to scale your IT environment with ease.
A virtual infrastructure can run multiple virtual environments from one piece of infrastructure. This means we can drastically reduce physical resources, so the cost of capital investments is removed from your bottom line. Because the operating system now exists virtually, there is more simplified server management and lower electricity costs, ultimately saving you on maintenance costs in the long run. Infrastructure virtualization consolidates many of the servers, also saving you physical space.
With virtual infrastructure, there is an increased level of agility and flexibility in your IT environment. Virtualization allows you to easily create new server and network systems without adding underlying hardware. The application can then be provisioned faster to your team, and therefore resources are shared more efficiently, and IT support can respond to concerns more quickly.
The agility of virtualization is best embodied through virtualized security, which are cybersecurity solutions that work within virtualized IT environments. Unlike traditional hardware solutions, virtualized security is much more flexible and agile.
Rather than being installed on individual devices, security virtualization allows security software to be deployed anywhere in the IT environment using cloud technology. This means that as devices and systems are added, the virtual security software is easily shared through the network, better protecting your business and saving you time and money in protecting your organization.
With virtual infrastructure, you can easily move the virtual machine to a different hypervisor host that is working if your physical server fails. As a result, your data will be accessible elsewhere if there is an outage. Unlike physical infrastructure, virtualized infrastructure is much more disaster resilient.
Virtual machines allow your IT environment to provision resources efficiently. Tools, applications, and resources are quickly deployed across operating systems and are easily updated by IT support, improving the responsiveness to issues as there are no hardware delays. This simplifies the management of your operating systems, improving overall productivity.
Infrastructure virtualization makes your IT environment inherently scalable. As your business grows, so can your IT environment. Without added hardware costs, you’ll be able to respond to consumer demand by scaling up your infrastructure in times of growth.
By separating physical hardware from operating systems, virtualization can provision computing, memory, storage, and networking resources across multiple virtual machines for greater application performance, increased cost savings, and easier management. Despite variances in design and functionality, a virtual infrastructure typically consists of these key components:
- Virtualized compute: This component offers the same capabilities as physical servers, but with the ability to be more efficient. Through virtualization, many operating systems and applications can run on a single physical server, whereas in traditional infrastructure servers were often underutilized. Virtual computing also makes newer technologies like cloud computing and containers possible.
- Virtualized storage: This component frees organizations from the constraints and limitations of hardware by combining pools of physical storage capacity into a single, more manageable repository. By connecting storage arrays to multiple servers using storage area networks (SAN), organizations can bolster their storage resources and gain more flexibility in provisioning them to virtual machines. Widely used storage solutions include fiber channel SAN arrays, iSCSI SAN arrays, and NAS arrays.
- Virtualized networking and security: This component decouples networking services from the underlying hardware and allows users to access network resources from a centralized management system. Key security features ensure a protected environment for virtual machines, including restricted access, virtual machine isolation, and user provisioning measures.
- Management solution: This component provides a user-friendly console for configuring, managing, and provisioning virtualized IT infrastructure, as well as automating processes. A management solution allows IT teams to migrate virtual machines from one physical server to another without delays or downtime while enabling high availability for applications running in virtual machines, disaster recovery, and backup administration.
Managing a Virtual Infrastructure
When it comes to the management of a virtual infrastructure, you have to focus on your capacity. You’re running more than one workload at the same time, so you need to make sure you know the capacity, and you’re able to predict any trends that could create adverse outcomes.
There’s also the risk of virtual machine sprawl to be aware of. What this means is that since a virtual machine can be so easily created, you might end up having more than you need, leading to wasted resources, performance issues, and general inefficiency.
Finally, you should also manage your virtual infrastructure with an eye toward performance, often caused by issues with capacity or virtual machines that have been incorrectly configured. There’s also the potential for a situation where too many virtual machines are utilizing the same piece of hardware.