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Virtualisation: Multiple Operating Systems and Applications on One Computer and at the Same Time

Darius Spaiys, IT infrastructure solutions director, Bytelife Solutions, Lithuania

When companies grow, they usually face higher IT infrastructure expenses. Today, however, this no longer need be true. The process of virtualisation allows organisations to use their existing servers in new ways, as opposed to needing to buy new ones.

Until now, a company which decides to install a new IT system has had to accept the need for a new server, as well.  Server technologies could not handle several operating systems and business applications in a single server.  Data show that many servers used by companies are, therefore, operated at only 10-15% of capacity.
Now, however, there is a new process called virtualisation.  The resources of a single server can be used to handle a dozen systems or more.  To think about the limitations of existing server technologies, consider a television set which can only broadcast one programme.  If that were the case, people would have multiple television sets in their living rooms, just like companies have multiple servers, each of which is working with just one system and one system alone.


Virtualisation is a proven software technology which is rapidly transforming the IT landscape and fundamentally changing the way in which people use their equipment.
Todays powerful x86 computer hardware was originally designed to run only one operating system and one application.  Virtualisation breaks the link.  Multiple operating systems and applications can be run on one computer simultaneously, thus extending the utilisation and flexibility of hardware.
Virtualisation software is installed on servers before the installation of operating systems.  An unlimited number of virtual services can then be created, and each has the characteristics of a stand-alone server.  If four virtual servers are created on one server and one malfunctions, the other three continue work without interruption.
Laptop virtualisation is also possible, allowing people to use not just different programmes, but also different operating systems.  Users of Apple computers, for instance, can also install the Windows and Linux operating systems.
Depending on the size of a company, it may have a few servers, a dozen servers, or many more servers than that.  These are resources which can be consolidated and put to full use by means of virtualisation.  Virtualisation creates logical containers that are assigned hardware resources and then used to store installed operating systems or applications.  Such containers can easily be transferred from one server to another.  Logistics on board ships are organised on the basis of the same consideration.  No matter whether the ship is full of cars, basketballs or ceramic tiles, the products are stored in containers, and that means that the containers can be transferred from ship to ship, onto a train, etc.  If ship owners were using the same logic that is often used when dealing with servers, they could transport only one kind of product at a time, no matter how much space it takes up in the hold.


Companies which have begun to use virtualisation say that it ensures significant savings.  An insurance company in Lithuania, for example, turned two servers into 16 virtual ones, thus saving about 80% of the cost of new servers and additional administration services.  Preliminary estimates show that the transformation of a physical server into a virtual one saves an average of EUR 1,000 per year.
Virtualisation means no new servers, no problems with storing them.  Equipment investments can be forgotten, and substantial savings on electricity can be enjoyed, too.  Whats more, a single servers operating system licence can be used for more than one virtual server.  Ordering, delivering, configuring and installing a new physical server that can take weeks.  Virtualisation, by contrast, takes just 30 to 60 minutes.  Virtualisation streamlines IT infrastructure, which becomes more efficient and manageable.  Operating costs remain the same, even though the system has undergone significant expansion.
Here are the advantages of virtualisation for business:
1. Server consolidation and infrastructure optimisation. Virtualisation ensures significantly higher resource utilisation by pooling infrastructure resources and breaking down the one application per server model.
2. Reduction in costs. Virtualisation reduces the number of servers and other IT hardware at any organisations data centre.  This lowers real estate, power and cooling costs, leading to significant IT savings.
3. Improved flexibility and responsiveness. Virtualisation offers a new way to manage IT infrastructure.  IT administrators spend less time on repetitive tasks such as provisioning, configuration, monitoring and maintenance.
4. Increased availability and improved continuity. Organisations can better plan downtime and recover more quickly from unplanned power outages.  Entire virtual environments can be securely backed up and migrated with no interruption in services.
5. Improved desktop manageability and security. It is possible to deploy, manage and monitor secure desktop environments which end users can access locally or remotely, with or without a network connection, and on almost any standard desktop, laptop or tablet PC.


The virtualisation of a server costs EUR 700 or 800 far less than the cost of a new server, which can cost anywhere from EUR 2,000 to 30,000.  Virtualisation is a good option for small companies which cannot afford major investments in reliable IT infrastructure, but which still want to ensure business continuity.  The consolidation of just two or three physical servers allows companies to reduce investments and reduce the risk of technical failure.
If one server in a virtualised system stops, all systems that are functioning on it are automatically launched on other servers.  It is as if containers from a sinking ship are automatically transferred to other vessels.  Comparable cluster equipment which provides the same continuity actually costs hundreds of thousands of euros and is used only by the worlds largest companies.
Servers may achieve up to 80% operational efficiency by means of virtualisation.  Expensive servers are an obvious constraint for small firms.  Expansion and maximum utilisation of existing servers will help companies to avoid ineffective investments.

Authors contacts: darius.spaicys(at)

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