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Going Virtual, Going Green
Web Monkey About the Author

With security clearance and well over a decade of experience with SQL Server, Web Monkey is the resident DBA at Norb Technologies and a real database guru.

A regular contributor to SQL Server Club, his background includes software development, hardware, a smattering of essential networking knowledge and an unhealthy interest in web security. He has an obsession with automating repetitive tasks, but has a tendency to forget where he left his last open bag of fruit and nut...

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I won't bore you with an introduction to what a Virtual Machine is, as you probably already know. If you're not sure or would like to know more then take a look at this introductory article by VMWare. Let’s jump straight in and look at ten good reasons for you to adopt VM in your SQL Server environment.

Virtual machines…

  • Save on hardware

  • Can easily be moved between virtual machine host servers

  • Are easily backed up to external storage media

  • Lower running costs

  • Save valuable real estate in the server room

  • Reduce heat output in the server room, reducing the need for more costly air conditioning systems

  • Require fewer physical network connections to administer, which in turn means less network hardware

  • Are quicker to install as a copy can be made of an existing machine, which saves time repeatedly installing Windows

  • Can be re-set to a previous known state

  • Are ideal in a testing environment where machines have to be reset repeatedly to a previous state

Another big benefit is that because they share a common virtual hardware platform. It is exceptionally easy to re-install an exact snapshot of the entire server onto another physical machine hosting the VM server product, as it will always be identical to the machine it was moved from.

Anyone who has worked with system administrators will know that attempting to restore an exact, ready to run, disaster recovery ready copy of a failed server on a new box can be more difficult than the backup product vendors would like to admit.

This is because minor changes to hardware at the motherboard, BIOS and chipset level can affect the recovery time and performance of a recovered server due to driver differences which are invariably difficult and time consuming to track down. With VM technology, this problem disappears.

In addition, it's backed by the major chip players. Intel and AMD are enthusiastically cramming VM technology into their processors to better support products such as VMWare and Virtual Server.

All in all, the savings and benefits in any environment can be enormous, regardless of the size of your company.

As an example, one building society I recently worked for in the UK estimates that they will save over $10 million over the next three years just by implementing virtual machine technology. It already runs 100 VMs and aims to have over 300 up and running by summer 2007, both in production, development and test. Proof if it were needed that this is a solid technology in which a business can put its confidence. Virtualization is here to stay.

So what does going virtual have to do with going green? Looking at the above list of reasons to adopt virtual machines, you may already have a few ideas. Let’s look at the positive environmental side affects of implementing virtual machines and how they inadvertently help to save the planet from climate change.

  • A faster install of a new virtual machine uses less heat than a clean install of Windows, which in turn burns less fossil fuel.

  • Fewer machines whirring away in your server room means a reduced demand on air conditioning, again reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned and your company’s carbon footprint.

  • Think all the way down the hardware production chain, from factory to server room floor. Less hardware reduces the carbon footprint left behind by factory production of server kit. Not to mention shipping it round the world and packaging it in a big cardboard box with loads of polystyrene padding.

  • One machine can share resources between VM installations, so your servers work efficiently more of the time (a bit like having four people sharing a car to work - better than a solo motorist).

  • What about the end of a server’s life? Transportation and packaging costs to move server waste away from your site will also be reduced. You’ll have less redundant hardware and make the most out of the life of a single server. With fewer physical servers you reduce the cost in time and energy when kit is redundant at the end of its life.

  • Think about the size of the footprint of your server room. If you reduced your physical servers by using VMs which shared hardware, you reduce the floor space.

    Land per square foot is high, especially in cities, so a reduced physical space delays the cost of building or expanding your server room for another few years. Think of the labor and energy required to create the building blocks and transport the building parts to extend your server room.

  • The more physical servers you have the more you need network cables. Boosting your virtual machine count reduces the amount of networking hardware required. Back to the factory line, this means ordering less network gear, so less factory production, transportation and packaging.

So inadvertently, going virtual also helps to reduce your carbon output. Another good reason to give it a go if you haven't already.

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