It should be noted that virtualization can then extend the reliability of traditional commodity hardware, providing mainframe-like failover features that are above and beyond what non-virtualized platforms are able to provide. This moves commodity hardware more firmly into line with the larger, more expensive RISC platforms.
These features can bring an extreme level of protection but are often above and beyond what is appropriate for IT shops that initially migrate from a non-failover, legacy hardware server environment. High availability is a great feature but is often costly and very often unnecessary, especially as companies move from, as we have seen, relatively unreliable environments in the past to more reliable environments today.
Given that we have already increased reliability over what was considered necessary in the past there is a very good chance that an extreme jump in reliability is not needed now. But due to the large drop in the cost of high availability, it is quite possible that it will be cost justified where previously it could not be.
In the same vein, virtualization is often feared because it is seen as a new, unproven technology. This is certainly untrue but there is an impression of this in the small business and commodity server space.
In reality, though, virtualization was first introduced by IBM in the 1960s and every since then has been a mainstay of high end mainframe and RISC servers – those systems demanding the best reliability. In the commodity server space, virtualization was a larger technical challenge and took a very long time before it could be implemented efficiently enough to make it effective to use in the real world.
But even in the commodity server space virtualization has been available since the late 1990s and so is approximately fifteen years old today, which is very far past the point of being a nascent technology – in the world of IT it is positively venerable.
Commodity platform virtualization is a mature field with several highly respected, extremely advanced vendors and products. The use of virtualization as a standard for all or nearly all server applications is a long established and accepted “enterprise pattern” and one that now can easily be adopted by companies of any and every size.
Virtualization, perhaps counter-intuitively, is actually a very critical component of a reliability strategy. Instead of adding risk, virtualization can almost be approached as a risk mitigation platform – a toolkit for increasing the reliability of your computing platforms through many avenues.