• What is Virtualisation?

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Virtualisation refers to a software layer between multiple virtual machines supported by ‘host’ hardware components running an operating system (the virtual machines may run a different operating system if desired). This enables the creation of multiple virtual workstations able to access the main operating system and SAN, meaning a reduction in physical IT infrastructure. 

What is SAN?

Storage Area Network (SAN) is a cluster of connected storage devices. The major benefit of SAN is that where a singular SAN device fails (or even where multiple SAN devices fail), the overall storage area network will continue to function. 

SAN devices are scalable, meaning further devices can be added to the network to increase storage space with ease (where a SAN is not in use and the storage device reaches maximum capacity, the user will potentially face considerations over migrating data to a larger storage device and reinstalling that larger device, incurring downtime).    

Virtualisation & SAN   

SAN provides the user with multiple data paths, which helps to improve the availability of applications across the network. SAN also allows for segregated network solutions, meaning allocated resources may be able to access data at even faster rates. 

Coupled with the multiple virtual machines that may be supported through Virtualisation, SAN can help businesses of all sizes to increase access to applications while providing a lowered risk of downtime. 

What are the benefits of Virtualisation? 

The major benefit of setting up a Virtualisation layer is increased efficiency - where commonly utilised applications do not natively make use of multiple processing threads, virtualisation can direct requests for data to make better use of all the available processing power. 

Benefits of Virtualisation include:

  • Reduced Costs - The reduction in IT infrastructure serves to benefit the user in terms of reduced capital costs associated with physical IT infrastructure, and reduced operating costs associated with the ongoing work required to perform updates and maintenance.
  • Reduced Downtime - When set up correctly, each virtual machine operates safely as a stand alone virtual machine. If an individual virtual machine is compromised, that virtual machine can be deleted at no risk to the host machine (or network, if quarantined correctly).
  • Disaster recovery (Business Continuity) - Virtual machines provide the user with ‘snap-shot’ options relating to data across the entire virtual machine, meaning regular backups of the virtual machine can be performed with ease, increasing business continuity. 

What are some common uses for Virtualisation?

A virtualisation layer on top of the main Operating System (OS) creates a filter through which all virtual machines must access storage and the network.

This means that each individual virtual machine exists as a separate ‘tab’ or ‘window’ on the main OS, with all of the computer’s functions contained within that compartmentalised section of the main OS.

The complete segregation of virtual machines affords the user several options that may prove to be beneficial in different scenarios, including:

  • Experiment with changing to a new operating system - test whether the new operating system is compatible with essential applications
  • Test updates for compatibility with existing apps without placing any files or unsaved data at risk
  • Test access to a website suspected of containing malware 

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