At PINT, we are always looking for ways to be more efficient and better serve our clients. One of our recent projects contributes towards these goals, with a number of interesting benefits.
What We Did
We eliminated nine physical servers that were each only performing a handful of tasks. We were able to do so by virtualizing them all onto one much more powerful server. It works by using a Virtual Machine Manager to divide a physical machine into isolated virtual environments that emulate a traditional server.
To the remote user, each machine appears the same as it did before. But in reality, the machines no longer reside in physical boxes. This shift yields some significant gains for us, as well as our clients.
Benefits of Virtualization
By virtualizing these servers, they actually become more powerful. That’s because they all compete for shared resources on the new virtual machine manager, which has roughly 16 times the power of any one of the boxes in which the servers previously resided. When one virtual machine is experiencing heavy load, the virtual machine manager allows that VM to utilize more resources than the other VMs that are idle. As a result, when it is needed, a VM can get that additional power boost- something it would not have access to on a physical machine.
Many of the servers have been migrated from a computer with only one hard drive. But the disks on our Virtual Machine Manager are redundant, much faster, and higher capacity. So now, the converted VMs are less likely to experience:
- Data loss
- Complete disk failure
By reducing the number of physical machines, we cut the amount of electricity needed. One very powerful machine has two 700W power supplies; each server decommissioned had a single 360W power supply. Effectively we have reduced our power consumption from 3,200W to 1,400W (with plenty of room to grow on our new VM Manager). Redundant power supplies make all the VMs safer, with less likelihood of down time or hardware failure. That’s not to mention that our air conditioners which keep the server room cool will have to do less work to maintain a comfortable temperature for the servers. These factors go a long way toward reducing PINT’s carbon footprint.
Like switching to CFLs… but for the server room.
The author making space at PINT, Inc.
By reducing the number of physical machines in our server room, we can make more room for fun stuff! Ping pong table? Other things?
Since VMs are not bound by a physical box, it is possible to perform routine system maintenance without ever having to shut them down or restart them. If one of the Virtual Machine Managers requires hardware maintenance, the VMs are simply migrated to another VM Manager that can handle them until the maintenance on the VM’s designated VM Manager is completed.
VMs provide significant security gains, as well. With this set up, the only thing you see is the virtualization layer. This requires Linux authorization, one of the most secure options around. Plus, you can still run everything you would on a physical machine, once the VM is set up. So your typical IIS security measures, (we are partial to ServerDefender VP) can still be applied.
While we are familiar with using the cloud for software, more and more people think it is the future of hardware, too. We could see virtualization take over our desktop computers, and run remote desktops off of tiny machines and monitors. What applications for virtualization do you anticipate? Share your predictions with us in the comments.