Virtualization: Sustainability and Savings Go Hand-in-Hand with Virtualization

With virtualization, reducing you carbon output and increasing your bottom line go hand-in-hand. It can help you save power, consolidate resources, while also introducing added flexibility, scalability and resilience to your infrastructure.

Joshua Hoffman

Raise your hand if you don’t care about reducing your IT infrastructure costs. How about if you don’t care about the environment? Not many raised hands there in either case, but even if reducing carbon emissions isn’t at the top of your priority list, the two go hand-in-hand. Efficiency is the key to cutting costs—and carbon—when it comes to IT.

By reducing overhead, particularly by consolidating hardware, you can dramatically cut the cost of running your datacenter. You can also have a tangible, positive impact on the environment. The best tool for helping you to realize these savings is virtualization.

Virtualization helps you cut costs, and it’s relatively easy to get started. There are many resources available to help you plan, deploy, operate and maintain your virtualized infrastructure.

Understand the Benefits

There are numerous benefits of virtualization technology, and a number of ways it can have an impact on both costs and power consumption.

Consolidation: The physical aspects of your IT infrastructure—server hardware, storage, network connectivity and power consumption—all cost money. Virtualization quite simply lets you deliver more with less. You can consolidate workloads, each of which previously required its own server hardware, into virtual machines (VMs) running on fewer physical machines. You eliminate the need to purchase, manage, maintain and power those machines. The fewer machines you have, the less money it costs.

Scalability: Planning for peak workloads is one of the most common causes of maintaining greater capacity than you’d normally require. This means more hardware, software and other resources. For example, if you work for a retailer, you’ll need to plan for a spike in transaction traffic over the holiday season. You may spend the rest of the year maintaining unused capacity, just to be ready for the occasional spike. Moving your infrastructure and applications onto VMs lets you quickly add and allocate additional capacity when you need it—and you won’t have to maintain it year-round.

Reliability: Whether caused by a hardware failure, human error or a power outage, downtime costs money. Virtual servers are contained entirely as a software object, so you can easily and seamlessly migrate them to other physical hardware whenever necessary. Features like Live Migration (for more information about Live Migration, see the white paper entitled “Hyper-V Live Migration Overview & Architecture”) help you do this.

Agility: Virtualization brings an unparalleled level of agility and flexibility to the datacenter. You can manage and maintain servers as discrete software components, rapidly create new servers from pre-defined and configured images, and reallocate resources to optimize performance and stability. You increase the efficiency of your IT resources and, most importantly, your time.

Foundations of the Virtualized Datacenter

The foundation for the virtual datacenter is Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V Host servers, running Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V technology. These house your business services and applications within virtual “guest” machines.

Consolidating multiple server roles into virtualized environments running on a single physical machine makes more effective use of your hardware. It also unlocks potential benefits, such as the ability to quickly scale infrastructure, add virtual resources to take on new workloads or pick up slack during scheduled or even unexpected maintenance. For more detailed guidance on configuring Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V, see the Hyper-V Getting Started Guide.

The primary tool for managing dynamic datacenters based on Hyper-V technology is System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). VMM scales across a wide range of virtual environments, from a single server to fully distributed enterprise environments managing hundreds of hosts running thousands of VMs.

There are many benefits to managing your virtual infrastructure with VMM, including:

  • Virtualization support for virtual machines running on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware ESX
  • End-to-end support for consolidating physical servers onto a virtual infrastructure
  • Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) for dynamic and responsive management of virtual infrastructure (which requires System Center Operations Manager)
  • Intelligent Placement of virtual workloads on the best-suited physical host servers
  • A complete library to centrally manage all the building blocks of the virtual datacenter

VMM provides a critical layer of management and control. It gives you a unified view of your entire virtualized infrastructure across multiple host platforms and myriad guest OSes. It also delivers a powerful toolset to facilitate bringing on new workloads.

For example, the physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversion wizard included with VMM simplifies the process of converting physical workloads to VMs. When you use it in conjunction with SCOM, the PRO feature gives you dynamic virtual workload reallocation to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your physical hardware resources.

VMM also lets you maintain a library of managed VMs. This helps you rapidly deploy new virtual OS instances as needed. Within that library, you can maintain server templates already configured for your core applications and services.

As your workload demand rises, you can use these templates to instantly deploy a new instance of whichever service you need. You can assign granular permissions to the templates, and delegate template management to others. For more details on installing and configuring System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, see the Virtual Machine Manager Deployment Guide.

SCVMM 2008 R2 Self-Service Portal 2.0

VMM has a self-service Web portal (called VMMSSP) so authorized users can create new virtual servers based on your templates. You maintain control over who can use the portal, but you can let other IT or departmental staff provision new machines as necessary. 

The VMMSSP helps you delegate tasks for greater cost efficiency. You can have business units manage their own IT needs, while the centralized infrastructure manages the physical resource pool (servers, networks and related hardware). That way you can still deliver services locally as needed, freeing you from workgroup-level tasks. 

Business units enrolling in the self-service portal system can use it to address a number of key functions. For example, using standardized forms, business units can request new infrastructures or changes to existing infrastructure components. They can also submit infrastructure requests. The standardized forms ensure that you have all the information you’ll need to fulfill the requests without repeatedly contacting the business unit for details.

Individual business units can create and manage their own VMs, using forms on the VMMSSP Web site. When a business unit submits a request to create a VM, the VMMSSP starts an automated provisioning process. This more quickly and efficiently creates the VM than doing so manually. Then the business units can designate their own administrators, advanced operators and users. This frees up IT staff and resources for other tasks.

You can simplify the process of enrolling business units and defining their needs up-front. That way, bringing new workloads on board is no longer a manual task. The VMMSSP collects information about a business unit and the resources they want to set up. The process of validating and provisioning resources for business units is simplified as well.

You can use the VMMSSP to assign resources based on business unit requests. Finally, changes to resources follow a request-and-approve lifecycle. Those requests remain on record in the database. This dramatically reduces the administrative burden of change control and management. All of these benefits equate to real time savings on your part, so you’ll be able to more effectively focus your energy.

Additional Resources

There are a number of tools and additional resources to help you get started. Your first stop should be the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit for Hyper-V. MAP helps you take stock of your current server environment (including Windows Server and Linux OSes running in a virtual environment), determine which servers are underutilized, and then generate server placements and virtualization candidate assessments for Hyper-V implementation.

MAP also includes a VMware discovery feature that identifies already-virtualized servers running under VMware that can be managed with the Microsoft VMM platform. You could also migrate these to Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V.

You can also use the Microsoft Integrated Virtualization ROI Tool to calculate potential power cost savings with Hyper-V prior to deployment. Finally, the Hyper-V Cloud Deployment Guides are excellent resources that walk you through all aspects of a virtualization deployment, including architecture, deployment and operations.

The potential benefits of virtualization are vast—not only to your carbon output, but to your bottom line. As you consolidate resources, you’ll also introduce greater flexibility, scalability and resilience. You’ll save power, you’ll save time, and, most importantly, you’ll deliver value to your organization.

Joshua Hoffman

Joshua Hoffmanis the former editor in chief of TechNet Magazine. He’s now an independent author and consultant, advising clients on technology and audience-oriented marketing. Hoffman also serves as editor in chief of, a site devoted to growing and enriching the market research community. He lives in New York City.