You probably know that most companies use computers to provide a variety of business-centric services that are critical to their success. These machines are known as 'servers'. Each server usually performs a single, specific duty; there's the email server, the accounting server, the print server, etc. Oftentimes each server runs on its own separate hardware, and is controlled and managed as a single unit. IT personnel really like this, as it makes each application far easier to troubleshoot and maintain than if everything was lumped together on one box.A lot of that is beginning to change with a new technology that allows for several of these machines to be consolidated and run off a single computer. This process, known as virtualization, is still in its infancy, but will have tremendous ramifications for the environment. Foedus, a three year old Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based company, specializes in this process. Mike Reilly, CEO of Foedus, was happy to fill in the details.
According to Mr. Reilly, most servers are only run at about 5 to 12 percent utilization; that means that the processor, or CPU, is only doing work for that amount of time. In addition, servers use a large amount of electricity, much more than your typical desktop or home computer. How much? Mr. Reilly estimates that each server uses between $300 and $550 per month in electricity. So the idea here is clear; if there was a way to put a lot of these machines onto one piece of hardware, companies could (a) save a lot of energy, (b) buy a lot less hardware, and (c) throw away a lot fewer machines when they reach their end of life.
The savings are substantial; Reilly estimates that a typical project reduces the numbers of servers by a factor between 10 to 1, and 20 to 1. That turns into, on average, a 40 percent overall cost savings and an 80 percent reduction in hardware purchases. And the good thing is that almost all servers (95 percent) are candidates for virtualization. Only a few, typically running old software or 'legacy' applications, are not.
The downside is fairly minimal; personnel require some additional training in the virtualzation software. It is of course, new, so there may be some reluctance at implementing it corporate wide from the get-go. But, as Reilly says, the good thing is that you can try it out on a few servers and see how you like it. Virtualization is clearly a revolution, probably as big as the invention of networking, and it's sure to be a big hit for companies, and a low hit on the environment.