The many benefits that virtualization offers companies and organizations around the world are the reason for its wide adoption and success. From virtual desktops to virtual machines (VMs), cloud servers, storage and network management, virtualization drives progress in almost every industry.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of virtualization to understand how you too can leverage the tech. Then we’ll review a few of the challenges that can get in the way of reaping these benefits if you aren’t careful.
Table of Contents
1. Cost reductions
Virtualization reduces upfront hardware and software costs, as well as maintenance, energy, waste, and hardware transport and storage expenses. Companies benefit from the competitive and cost-efficient portfolio that different leading market virtualization vendors offer for virtual technologies such as virtual desktops, virtual machines, or edge, cloud, or network virtual systems.
Virtualization platforms also offer built-in support, management, visualization, and security tools that simplify deployment and administration while bringing down costs.
Even those companies that decide to virtualize their digital assets using on-premises resources reap short and long-term cost savings. As systems evolve, grow, update, or scale up or down, virtualization provides a low-cost solution to flexible adoption while reducing the resources needed, increasing asset utilization and simplifying maintenance processes.
A company can also generate more cost savings by virtualizing not just one specific area but many including desktop virtualization, server virtualization, and network virtualization.
2. Access to innovative technology
There are many specific virtualization technologies that organizations can only access through virtualized environments. These include:
- Block-level storage virtualization: This type of virtualization abstracts the physical blocks of storage from the applications and operating systems that use them, improving provision storage, snapshot capabilities and storage volume replicas.
- File-level storage virtualization: In this type of virtualization file systems are pooled and accessed as a single namespace no matter where they are physically located. File-level storage improves sharing and performance, simplifies migration and administration, and enhances resilience and load balancing.
- Object-level storage virtualization: This is another type of virtualization where data is broken into units (objects) and kept in a single repository, removing the need for the file-folder structure and improving server storage administration.
- Containerization: Containerization is a technology that is used to create lightweight, portable containers for apps and their dependencies. Virtualization can be used to create container platforms and to deploy containerized applications.
- Cloud-native applications: Virtualization allows organizations to leverage and create cloud-native applications. Cloud-native applications are designed to run exclusively on cloud and virtualized environments, using microservices, container orchestrators, and auto-scaling for operation. They encompass a wide range of innovative technologies, including cloud-native AI and machine learning, anti-fraud apps, blockchain systems, and auto-compliance.
- Hypervisors and VMs: Using hypervisors companies can create and manage VMs to better take advantage of hardware and software resources, increase performance, security, and compliance, and develop applications in safe and isolated environments that are easily scalable.
- Software-defined networking (SDN): Virtualization can be used to create SDN controllers and to deploy SDN-enabled network devices. SDN is a technology that decouples the control plane from the data plane of a network, making it easier to provision and manage network resources.
- Network functions virtualization (NFV): NFV provides many functions, such as routing, switching and firewalling, resulting in faster and more seamless deployment and management of network services.
- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI): VDI is becoming increasingly popular as industries and sectors around the world digitally transform and hybrid work becomes the norm. From healthcare and government to retail and manufacturing, through VDI businesses can provide secure and compliant access to important resources from anywhere, simplify patient or customer sign-in, facilitate desktop management, improve security, and reduce costs.
3. Business continuity
For today’s businesses, downtime, disruptions, and the ability to meet spikes in demand can be the difference between success and outcomes or serious consequences. Virtualization offers many tools for organizations to rapidly recover from system failures such as VMs, encryption, VM live migration, data storage, recovery solutions (such as snapshots and backups), high-availability clustering, fault tolerance, and automated recovery. These technologies and tools significantly reduce downtime and ensure business processes continue with minimal disruption.
4. Improved IT management
While many of the IT management benefits of virtualization have already been mentioned, such as hardware and software cost reductions, continuity tools, and access to innovation at cost-efficient values, there are other specific areas worth noting.
The resource optimization concept of virtualization allows IT teams to efficiently use physical resources by sharing them among multiple VMs. Through hypervisors, IT experts can also increase visualization, make better and more informed decisions, and consolidate assets and resources needed.
Virtualization, by abstracting physical hardware and creating more accessible resources as layers, also simplifies infrastructure management. Instead of managing individual servers, networks, storage data centers, or network devices, IT teams can manage a wide range of virtualized technologies via centralized dashboards. This gives them a consistent and more powerful method to create, provision, deploy, monitor, update, or move digital assets into production.
Additionally, virtualization is advancing at rapid paces — with automation, machine learning, and AI being at the frontline of this progress. Through automated tools offered by many virtualization platforms, businesses can streamline many processes, driving performance while increasing security and governance.
These single-source-of-truth management consoles provide IT with holistic views of their IT infrastructure, help them configure and monitor assets, and facilitate proactive problem resolution, security, testing, development, and scaling.
5. Security, privacy, and compliance
Virtualization plays a crucial role in enhancing security, privacy and compliance by providing organizations with a robust framework for protecting their data, applications, and infrastructure.
- Isolation and segmentation: By isolating VMs from each other, security vulnerabilities or breaches can be significantly mitigated. This compartmentalization limits the spread of malware, reduces the attack surface, and enhances overall security posture.
- Network virtualization: Network virtualization enables the creation of virtual networks and firewalls, isolating network traffic and enforcing granular access control policies. This isolation mitigates the risk of unauthorized access and lateral movement of threats within the network.
- Secure boot and attestation: Virtualization platforms support secure boot and attestation mechanisms, ensuring that only trusted firmware and operating systems are loaded on VMs, preventing unauthorized modifications and driving boot integrity.
- Data encryption: Virtualization also supports encryption of VM disks and network traffic, protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access and breaches, safeguarding data at rest and in transit, and reducing the risk of data loss or leakage.
- Data masking and pseudonymization: Virtualized environments enable the use of data anonymization (the process of removing classified or sensitive information from datasets) and data masking (where data is concealed using random or fake data). These two tools help mitigate data exposure risks and threats linked to cyberattacks or unauthorized access.
- Access control and role-based access control (RBAC): Virtualization platforms facilitate the enforcement of access control policies, restricting access to VMs and sensitive data based on user roles and permissions.
- Data loss prevention (DLP): Virtualization platforms offer built-in DLP solutions, helping organizations monitor sensitive data movements.
- Regulatory compliance: As the regulatory landscape becomes more complex, companies turn to virtualization compliance technology to meet industry regulations such as the GDPR, HIPAA, the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), and many other federal, state, and international laws. The centralization and visualization of virtualized management systems and automated technologies make it an ideal environment for companies to keep up with ever-evolving governance and compliance demands.
- Auditability and logging: Virtualization platforms provide comprehensive audit logs, tracking user activities, system changes, and security events. These logs facilitate compliance audits and investigations, demonstrating adherence to regulatory requirements and providing evidence in case of security incidents.
- Policies: Companies can use virtualization technologies to efficiently apply policies across their IT infrastructure. Centralizing policy enforcement actions on digital replicas simplifies compliance efforts and reduces the risk of non-compliance.
- Compliance automation: Virtualization platforms offer state-of-the-art compliance automation tools. Labor-intensive and time-consuming compliance tasks can be streamlined reducing manual effort, minimizing errors and ensuring continuous compliance with regulatory requirements.
Challenges of virtualization
There are several challenges to virtualization that companies will have to manage to reap the benefits this tech presents. Challenges to plan for include:
- Complexity: Virtualization requires advanced technological skills which are currently in deficit in the market. Without a clear understanding of the concepts and technologies, virtualization risks crashing on the rocks of poor planning and implementation.
- Performance: The performance level of a virtualized infrastructure is linked to skills. If systems are not properly designed, developed, created, configured, monitored, and managed, business outcomes will not be achieved.
- Security: Virtualization can introduce new security risks that organizations need to be well aware of to deploy the proper security controls that protect their environments.
- Cost: While significantly cheaper than in-house, non-virtualized architectures, virtualization platforms can become expensive if proper budgeting is not applied. Companies should compare vendors and make sure they have no overlapping solutions.
- Adoption: In addition to these technical challenges, there are also some organizational challenges that companies need to consider. One of the most important roadblock associated with virtualization is cultural change and resistance. In the end, virtualization dramatically changes the way teams work and users engage with a company. Fostering a culture that supports and encourages innovation will mitigate some of these challenges.
- Vendor lock-in: As with any Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) — as indeed with physical infrastructure, too — vendor lock-in is a persistent issue. To avoid it, companies need to carefully consider their vendor choices, integration capacities, and platforms against their business goals to ensure a clear exit strategy is available.
Bottom line: With careful planning, virtualization provides huge benefits
Despite challenges, virtualization can be a valuable tool for organizations of all sizes. By carefully planning and implementing virtualization, organizations can reap the benefits of reduced costs, improved agility, and greater security.
Undoubtedly, virtualization is a powerful technology that is transforming digital infrastructures across the world. The power of abstraction of digital resources creates endless opportunities for innovation and empowers organizations to create more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective high-performing environments.
Get started on your virtualization journey with one of the best server virtualization software solutions, selected and reviewed by our experts.