Server Virtualization

Growing number of servers in the enterprise bodes well for system integrators

Server virtualization won't run well on older hardware, so if you still have some Pentium servers lying around, this is not the solution for better utilization of that old hardware. However, a newer multi-processor, multi-core server can run many virtual machines simultaneously. Running just two VMs on a single physical server can reduce by 50 percent the following: power consumption, heat generation (and therefore cooling requirements), rack space (real estate) requirements, technology refresh costs and additional other benefits as well.

The hardware you choose will determine if you can put five, 10, or more virtual machines on a single physical server. Therefore, system integrators have an opportunity to sell additional hardware and software to these customers. However, the challenge is to become proficient on this topic and to develop the related skill sets needed to install and maintain this software.

Impact on access control and video surveillance

This new technology has a huge impact on physical access control and video surveillance, as well as the ability of these systems to integrate together. First of all, various hypervisors have differing levels of support for legacy physical ports. Therefore, if your system relies on serial ports, parallel ports or even USB ports, these ports have to be shared with other devices, but software generally wants to take exclusive control of these ports and that may be an issue. Therefore, software should be identified as VM compatible. The advantage to security integrators is that a single server can house multiple NVRs, access control server hosts and other functions thereby reducing the cost to deploy such a solution or reducing current reliance on older hardware. Storage companies are also realizing the advantages of this solution, so now a single server from a storage provider can provide storage and multiple VM support even further reducing the number of appliances that need to be installed to provide a solution.

How to get started with this discipline

The hypervisor software is available from a number of providers including VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and others. Generally, the hypervisor you pick will dictate what hardware is compatible, but from that point forward you can set up multiple virtual machines, install the licensed OS, provision the systems as usual, install the software that the enterprise operates on as usual, transition any data to the new system and you are up and running.

As server virtualization becomes more popular, it becomes a more enticing target for malware developers. The hypervisor doesn't yet have the sophisticated tools that the OS has to identify and thwart various viruses, worms or Trojans. These tools will become available over time.

There are means other than server virtualization to cut IT costs, but not without risks. Server virtualization provides the "best bang for your buck" as there is huge cost savings to realize with minimal risk. Other means of cost savings such as outsourcing IT services and infrastructure introduce additional risks that must be addressed and depending on the business model of the systems integrator, there may not be as much revenue in these other solutions.

Adam Shane is product manager at AMAG Technology.