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How Virtualization is transforming small and medium business

Virtualization and its cousin, cloud computing, are important trends in the computer world today. While these catchwords are bantered about, the implications or how they are set to transform our lives is not well understood. This is true in part because virtualization takes many forms, and cloud computing seems almost ethereal. Regardless, you are already benefiting from them. When using web mail, searching the Internet, or visiting most any website, these technologies make it happen. First designed for large mainframes and arrays of computers, they are now reaching into our homes and businesses.

At its simplest, virtualization is abstraction. Virtualization started on expensive mainframe platforms where the need arose to keep one crashing program from affecting hundreds of other users. Many mainframes were replaced with dozens of individual PC servers and networks in the 80s and 90s, culminating with the “one application, one server” mantra which created de facto separation. But as PCs and servers quickly grew in processing power and capability and dropped in price, the trend reversed. Systems with dual or quad processor cores, gigs of ram and gigs or terabytes of disk space replaced many of the old servers.

Virtualization programs, such as those from VMware or Microsoft’s Hyper-V, use a program called a hypervisor to create a small layer between computer hardware and its operating systems and applications. Early versions extracted a performance penalty, but later generations made this layer almost transparent. This separation offers isolation, but another benefit is standardization. To each virtual environment, the system hardware appears the same, allowing virtual systems not only to co-exist, but to be copied or moved between systems, etc. creating testing, flexibility and redundancy. While Virtualization is at home in the data center, it also playing an increasing role on desktops and laptops, where it enables new MAC and Linux laptop users to keep XP and Windows applications around while running side by side with their new applications.

The other enabling trend is faster, more reliable, and more ubiquitous Internet access making Internet based hosted services or “cloud” computing a reality. A “big pipe” Internet connection enables applications to move from local desktops and servers to datacenters in the Internet cloud. Starting with Web sites and hosted email, it has grown quickly to add e-commerce, CRM systems, disaster recovery backups, even video on demand. Once the Internet connection is fast and reliable enough to allow key applications to move, our desktops and laptops become nothing more than windows to virtual storage and application libraries. This allows small clients to take advantage of economies of scale and cost savings of shared resources. You can also access those resources from home, work or anywhere with an Internet connection. Why spend thousands on expensive applications that are rarely used when they can be shared?

New generations of virtualization and monitoring tools, as demonstrated by from www.Doyenz.com at a recent West Sound Technology Association meeting, bring these abilities to the small business users. Often most small businesses have only a single server and cannot afford a backup, so when it breaks down, everything comes to a halt. Doyenz is a technology company whose mission is to improve the quality and efficiency of IT delivered to the Small and Medium businesses. Its automated Virtual IT is a managed service designed for use by small valued-added resellers and IT consultants who manage 30 to 50 customers. For a small monthly fee and with no long-term commitment and no hardware/software to buy, this allows them to provide a heightened level of service by leveraging virtualization, automation and cloud services. Customers pay less for their IT because the delivery of IT is more efficient and disaster recovery is built into the process.

These patented virtualization tools in turn allow small businesses to keep virtual copies of their servers either in the cloud datacenters or in local network storage, using differential comparisons and compression techniques to reduce transfer time. The virtual test lab allows for testing of new application patches on the virtual server that is running in production. If an error occurs a rollback can be performed easily. A remote monitoring and management service keeps the virtual servers running with minimal intervention.

Finally, its “no-touch service” backs up the virtual servers on your local network and up into the cloud for a full disaster recovery solution. If a server breaks down, the latest virtual backup can be transferred to a desktop system as a temporary replacement, allowing ongoing business operations with minimal downtime, not unlike having a spare time in the trunk to get you going again. Doyenz is also working with partners to offer a solution that will let customers run their servers permanently in the cloud, or start a copy of their server in fail-over mode in the cloud in case of catastrophic failure of on-premise servers. In the near future, in-cloud migration services for both server and application software will exist.

As virtualization and cloud computing are coming together with faster Internet connections, the door is opening to a sea change in how we work interact with computer and other media systems in the home and the business. As an example, with effective video and music on demand, no one can doubt the implications of libraries on CDs or DVDs. The stage is set to for a separation of your digital world, both at home and work from the piece of hardware you happen to be using.

, a prominent innovator in the policy and consulting industry which creates solutions for businesses, organizations and governmental agencies. She is also president of West Sound Technology Association , which has promoted a technology future for the West Sound since 2000. Charles Keating has been president of Keating Consulting Service , an IT consulting practice, for 26 years. The firm started in Chicago and migrated to the Seattle area in 1996. He is also Treasurer of WSTA.)

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