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I recently came across a blog post that mentioned ERP and virtualization as two of the most significant technologies for enterprises.

I am not very familiar with virtualization and all that it can do. I know of virtualization software that allows you to load a guest OS on a different host OS. How is virtualization so transformational for enterprises?

Can you give me a use-case for virtualization in an enterprise scenario?

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closed as off topic by slhck, Journeyman Geek, Tom Wijsman, nhinkle Feb 14 '12 at 2:39

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When your hard drives are "virtual", it's easy to back up and restore a user's files. It's also trivial to refresh a computer back to it's original state - just delete the current HDD and replace it with the image from a fresh install. It also helps with testing applications or patches in a sandboxed environment before deployment. – Breakthrough Feb 13 '12 at 11:45
this seems rather open ended to me - there's many use cases, so no one right answer, and dosen't actually ask for a solution to a real world problem. – Journeyman Geek Feb 13 '12 at 15:02
I agree with Journeyman Geek. The answers posted so far seem to equate virtualization with OS virtualization. That leaves out application and user virtualization. – Patrick S. Feb 14 '12 at 1:21
I now have a better understanding of 'virtualization in an enterprise environment' thanks to these answers. No real world problem solved, but one more individual with a basic understanding of the concept. Think that justifies the question and the answers. Well, atleast I got the clarity I was looking for. – Shailesh Tainwala Feb 17 '12 at 13:18
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Virtualization has huge flexibility and scalability advantages.
"Moving a server(farm)" can potentially be an operation that can be invoked from your desk. You just move the virtual machine from one host to the next (which can live anywhere on the world).
If you need additional instances of a machines, you can just generate a (virtual) server somewhere in your physical resource pool in mere minutes.

Most of all it allows you to use your resources a lot better. You can move virtual servers around on your physical hosts until you saturate them just perfectly. This allows you to reduce the amount of physical servers you actually need (and, thus, reduce cost).

Administration in general is also easier and less costly. Just consider remote management. If the target host is physical, at some point you might have to rely on a dedicated KVM-over-IP device (which costs money again) to manage the system. With a VM, everything is virtual to begin with, and the technology to administer the VM remotely is most likely built into the hypervisor.

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So can we say that - virtualization helps detach the hardware layer of a computing system from the software/functional layer? – Shailesh Tainwala Feb 13 '12 at 12:47
That statement would be true already even without virtualization (I believe). I would say it detaches computing resources from physical hardware. But maybe that statement oversimplifies what virtualization provides. – Oliver Salzburg Feb 13 '12 at 16:38

There are so many ways virtualization can provide benefits in an enterprise environment.

Consolidation - This is the number one benefit for most enterprises. The ability to combine different system workloads on a single physical box allows more efficient use of physical resources. It also allows an entire rack of hardware to be consolidated down to a single physical system. The savings on rack space, cooling, power, etc can add up to be quite significant.

Scalability - Using an enterprise level virtualization product like VMware provides the ability to add additional host systems seamlessly. That instantly increases resources, which can then be used by guests immediately.

Reliability/Redundancy - With high availability options and fault tolerance, hardware failures become a minor inconvenience instead of a massive outage. Automated load balancing (with additional features) can keep redundant servers on separate physical hosts to avoid outages (ie, VMware DRS rules for separating Active Directory controllers).

Simplified Management - Enterprise level virtualization generally include fantastic management tools. VMware includes tools to not only manage the hosts, but will also manage the guests to some level (OS patches at least).

I talk a lot about VMware - primarily because that's what I'm familiar with, but also because its what we generally recommend. (We usually recommend it because it has better management tools in our opinion.)

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I have also seen Desktop virtualization leveraged in some great ways. Picture a situation of offsite vendors working on a project, and they need access to company resources (software, data on network, email) and you do not want to be responsible for supplying the vendor with Hardware or Software license. You set them up with a Virtual session, that they can gain access to from their own machine, through a browser. When the contract is done, instead of needed to remove access at many points, all you need to do is cut out access to their portal.

Now in these cases, a lot of times, users may be in a different time zone completely. Support personnel can connect to the Virtual Session anytime they want to resolve issues, instead of waking up at 3am their time to call someone over seas, and modify settings in their email software on their own machine.

This is how it has made my little world easier.

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