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Mitch Irsfeld

TechNet Flash, Volume 12, Issue 19 - September 22, 2010
TechNet Flash Editor's Note from Mitch Irsfeld

Increasing Your Odds with Virtualization

It's hard to generalize the benefits of virtualization, partly because we don't fully know where the value ends. One of the main evolutionary paths leads to cloud computing, and the value there could be tremendous. In that respect, virtualization is like a high flying stock just before it splits; there's good reason to own it now, but just wait!

According to Mitch Tulloch in the second edition of his e-book Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions from the Desktop to the Data Center, lowering total cost of ownership is one of three key drivers for considering a virtualization solution. Increasing server availability and thereby increasing service levels and minimizing disruption is a direct business value. And business agility can be enhanced by providing capacity and applications on demand.

Tulloch walks through Microsoft's offerings in all levels of the virtualized architecture: server, desktop, remote desktop, and virtualization management. He also talks about the evolution of virtualized infrastructures to cloud computing, and how adding cloud solutions on top of your existing virtualized infrastructure allows you to provision resources as services.

Paving the Way to the Cloud
While the cost advantages of virtualization may be enough in their own right to migrate from physical to virtual, the end game could be even better. And it's oft been said that IT should regard virtualization more as a strategy than a technology. In the lively Microsoft vs. VMware debate showcased in Network World, David Greschler, director of virtualization strategy for Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, noted that virtualization is no longer seen as the final destination. "Now it is clear this technology is a stepping stone to the more agile, responsive world of cloud computing," he says. "The core benefits of virtualization - the ability to consolidate servers, quickly provision new applications, automatically back up systems - pales in comparison to the speed and cost savings possible with cloud computing."

The virtualization of all tiers of your infrastructure is a necessary first step in moving to the more flexible service model of cloud computing.

If you've been waiting to overhaul your application infrastructure with a virtual desktop and application solution, an upgrade to Windows 7 might present the perfect timing for the transformation. Microsoft's Application Virtualization (App-V) 4.6 has full support for Windows 7, and as Chris Jackson describes in his TechNet Magazine article, Making Applications Compatible with Windows 7 in a Virtualized Environment, when working App-V into your Windows 7 migration, you can benefit from the potential for reduced cost during installation and testing, and leverage most of the same processes for resolving application compatibility issues using shims. He details how to apply and manage shims as a centrally managed database using your existing systems management software.

Should all systems go virtual?
Before you migrate all your physical systems to virtual systems, you should understand the advantages and disadvantages of virtualization. Yes, there are potential risks. In his Top 10 Virtualization Best Practices article, Wes Miller says you need to enforce the same policies for your VMs that enforce for your physical systems. It's "far too easy to clone a guest," he writes, and this can result in systems that are improperly secured or cause other problems with the system from which it was cloned.

While virtual environments are more efficient to manage, they do not manage themselves. In his other TechNet Magazine article, Care and Feeding of Virtual Environments, Wes Miller notes that virtualization doesn't make hardware more reliable. It just changes the odds. Check out his best practices for minimizing the cost of virtualization and his considerations for managing virtualized systems.

"Just because a system is virtualized doesn't mean you can't lose it due to registry corruption or corruption of the entire VM," Miller says. And the security protection needs for virtualized machines are similar to those of physical machines. "The last thing you need is an infrequently used VM becoming the local botnet representative on your corporate network," he says.

So how does Microsoft's family of virtualization solutions stack up? Enterprise Strategy Group's lab tested the Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 server virtualization offering and determined that "the performance overhead of Hyper-V R2 is manageably low compared to the outstanding benefits of server virtualization." In its ESG Lab Report, Microsoft Hyper-V R2: Scalable, Native Server Virtualization for the Enterprise, ESC documents the hands-on testing of Hyper-V R2 with a focus on the enhanced flexibility, availability, and performance, and concludes that "powerful flexibility and availability capabilities tested by ESG Lab - including Live Migration, Clustered Shared Volumes, and improved performance - are turning Microsoft server virtualization technology into an enabler of server management and data center automation."

Where do you start?
This edition of TechNet ON includes a host of resources to get you going on both server and application virtualization, including trial downloads of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 and the App-V 4.6 Beta. But in particular, we'd like to call out the collection of free training clinics from Microsoft Learning, Exploring Microsoft Virtualization Technologies. This is an outstanding offering and includes the following:

  • Clinic 5935: Introducing Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008
  • Clinic 6334: Exploring Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008
  • Clinic 6335: Exploring Microsoft Application Virtualization
  • Clinic 6336: Exploring Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008

Another great starting point is the Virtualization Training Portal, which offers a comprehensive set of certification paths and training resources that cover the entire Microsoft virtualization solution.

You can also take advantage of a free lesson from Microsoft Learning: Installing, Configuring, and Managing Windows XP Mode. This lesson is excerpted from Microsoft Course 10324A, Implementing and Managing Microsoft Desktop Virtualization - part of a five-day, 300-level course intended for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 system and desktop administrators who will manage and implement desktop and application virtualization technologies within their network.

Thanks for reading,

Mitch Irsfeld
Editor, TechNet Flash

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