Recently, I worked with a client whose IT department was going through the process of virtualizing physical servers into the cloud. For them, moving to the cloud would reduce their maintenance effort, and provide a safe off-site location for all their data. Their IBM Clarity servers were physical boxes located in their office datacenter. In this case, the client used Azure, but SoftLayer is another good option. For these folks, virtualizing was the strategic decision.
As an experiment, they shutdown the development server, took an image of it, and uploaded it to Azure. This required a few hours of downtime for the whole thing, but it was all planned, so users knew what to expect. The corporate network was setup so any of their Azure servers still appear as a regular server in their domain. There were no VPN clients required to access the server. When the virtual machine started up, it came online and just worked. The server still had the same machine name, same domain and same corporate IP. When we first logged into the box and ran through some of the application, we found the speed picked up too. Through testing, we identified disk access times were 75% faster. Making backups, restoring backups and copying large folders all seemed much faster now.
Pros vs Cons
In general, there are some really nice benefits to virtualizing any environment. Here are some to think about. Should you do it? Well, it depends. It depends on how you view some of these pros and cons.
From a user’s perspective, we were curious how they would experience the change. Since Clarity is a web-based planning tool, many users just access the website. Their bookmarks still worked. Their network credentials still worked. They could still perform all their same actions. Saving was the same. Retrieving was faster. The most important observations were that it worked, and performance was the same or better.
Whether to virtualize a server or not has many considerations. For these folks, it worked very well. Any organization considering this should think about these questions:
- Are there strategic reasons for or against?
- Are there monetary reasons for or against?
- Are there legal reasons for or against?
From a technical perspective, I think there are strong technologies out now to support server applications living in the cloud. In a day when many people work remotely, do we really care where the server lives? IMHO, as long as it works and we can get our jobs done servers can be virtualized.