Top Pros and Cons of Virtualization

By Ashutosh Jha → Last Updated on Sunday, February 17, 2019
An estimated 85% or more or organizations use virtualization at some level. That level of adoption means that if you don't use virtualization, you must start soon.

If you're just starting a business, you might find yourself scratching your head. Maybe you'd ask something like, "What is virtualization?"
In essence, virtualization is when software mimics the functions of a piece of hardware. A common example is when you run both a Windows and Linux operating system on your computer. Your computer basically pretends that one of the operating systems has its own hardware.

As with most tech advances, there are many pros and cons of virtualization. Let's jump in and look at some of the big benefits and pitfalls.

6 Top pros and cons of virtualization

Let's start top pros and cons of virtualization which will help you understand the virtualization process better.

Pro #1: Server Consolidation

In the early days, it was a basic truth that businesses rarely got full use of their servers computing power. Even though the raw computing power existed, the basic software setup ran one instance of an operating system. That meant expanding your capacities meant more servers.

Virtualization throws that model out the window. Since you can run multiple operating systems on the same physical server, you can get lots of virtual servers.

That lets you take advantage of all that raw computing power. It also means you can consolidate a lot of operations onto a few servers.

Pro #2: Improved Productivity

As lean methods trickle down into basic business thinking, productivity becomes a big concern. One big tenet of lean thinking is the elimination of waste. One area of potential waste is employee time.

Virtualization can help with that problem. Let's say you fly someone out to California for a business meeting. The potential client asks about your current stock and whether you can provide X units by a given date.

With virtualization, your employee can log into your system from their laptop and access that data in real-time. They can run a virtual desktop right in the meeting.

No wasted time making calls after the meeting. No shooting off an email from their phone and waiting for a response..

The same applies to those working at home.

Pro #3: Long-Term Cost Reduction

Business and enterprise-grade server equipment isn't cheap. A rack full of servers can represent tens of thousands of dollars in hardware investment. That's before you even consider software licenses.

Then, you must consider replacement costs. While no absolute rule exists, most businesses work on a 3-year to 5-year replacement cycle.

So, you don't shell out tens of thousands once. You shell out that much every few years.

The server consolidation you get from virtualization makes this much less painful. Replacing three high-end servers will cost you quite a bit, but nothing compared with replacing 10 or 15 high-end servers.

You also save in less obvious ways. Say you reduce your total servers by 60%. That's 60% less hardware your IT people must provide maintenance on.

All of that time they don't spend on physical maintenance is time they spend on other -- potentially more profitable -- work.

Con #1: Short-Term Costs

The long-term cost saving is not a mirage. You will almost certainly save big if you run a lot of servers now. The short-term costs may prove a different story.

While virtualization is something of a norm these days, not every server offers native support for it.

For example, let's say your servers are all on the last year of a five-year replacement cycle. You might discover that none of your current equipment will work for virtualization.

Even if you can consolidate down to fewer servers, you must replace them now. You may also end up shelling out for new software licenses that cover virtualization.

A related bit of bad news is that not all software will work with virtualization. That can leave you in a position where you must replace an application with one that will work. Alternatively, it can mean running a separate server for just one or two applications you can't live without in your business.

Con #2: Learning Curve

A virtual server, the software that controls it, and the digital environment it lives in may prove new to your IT team. After all, you probably didn't hire on virtualization skills if you didn't use it before now.

That means one of two things. One option is that you hire people with the right skills. That means a recruitment and interview process in a time of fierce competition for IT pros.

The other option is that your current team must get up to speed on the infrastructure before you can really take advantage of virtualization. Learning new skills takes time and there's no perfection the first time out.

For example, Citrix storefront customization is a relatively easy task for someone who knows how it's done. For someone who's never seen or heard of Citrix before, the first run at customization can prove slow and error-prone.

Con #3: Virtual Server Sprawl

Virtualization can eliminate physical server sprawl and create virtual server sprawl. Once your IT team is up to speed on the software, they'll find deploying a new virtual server is quite simple.

It's simple enough that they can start creating virtual servers all the time whether it's warranted or not. This can create a different kind of inefficiency. All those virtual servers soak up the resources of the physical hardware without providing a lot of benefits.

Think of it like opening up a dozen programs on your computer, even though you only really need two of them. All those open programs slow things down because they're eating resources like processor time and memory.

Parting Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Virtualization

When you consider the pros and cons of virtualization, the benefits generally outweigh the pitfalls. Here is the summary of the pros and cons of virtualization.

You maintain fewer servers, which gives you a lot of knock-on benefits. There is less physical maintenance, lower cooling bills, and less electricity usage. You also get improved productivity and lower long-term costs.

The pitfalls are typically short-term problems, such as hardware upgrades and licensing, training, and server sprawl.

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Ashutosh Jha

Ashutosh Jha is a professional blogger, Blog and IT Consultant. He writes about Blogging, SEO, Making Money, Internet Marketing and Web Design.
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