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What is a Virtual Infrastructure?

A virtual infrastructure delivers the same capabilities as physical components but using software.

A virtual infrastructure is something relevant to business IT environments, particularly at the enterprise level. There are specialized operating systems for a virtual environment, such as the IGEL thin client OS, but first, what are the business implications for a virtual infrastructure?

An Overview

A virtual infrastructure is a set of software-defined components of an enterprise IT environment. A virtual infrastructure delivers the same capabilities as physical components but using software. This allows IT teams to deploy the virtual resources quickly and across systems based on enterprise needs.

A virtual infrastructure differentiates physical hardware from the operating system.

In this situation, virtualization often deploys the resources across virtual machines, including memory, storage, and networking resources.

The benefits include cost savings and improvements in application performance, along with easier management.

Components

While the components of a virtual infrastructure can vary, some commonly included elements include:

  • Virtual computing: This is like physical servers, but there’s more efficiency. Most operating systems and applications that are part of a virtual infrastructure can operate through one physical server. Cloud computing is also easily facilitated with virtual computing.
  • Virtualized network and security: This element of a virtual infrastructure removes the networking from the hardware so that users can gain access to network resources from a unified management system. Security features that are part of a virtual environment help make sure there’s a protected environment and access are appropriately restricted. There can also be virtual machine isolation.
  • Management: A virtual IT infrastructure provides user-friendly management. There’s a single console, and IT teams can then move virtual machines between physical servers without downtime.
  • Storage: A virtual infrastructure eliminates the limitations that can come with hardware because physical storage is moved to one repository.
  • Hypervisor: This is a layer of software that lets one host computer support multiple virtual operating systems at the same time. Since the same physical components are being shared, the hypervisor helps make the most of available resources.

To contrast this with physical infrastructure, made up of components like physical servers, you can have more than one virtual machine running on a single device. That means you might have 10 virtual servers and one physical server instead of 10 physical servers.

A virtual machine runs an application like physical machines. You can install different operating systems on a virtual machine.

The takeaway from this is that in an enterprise environment with virtual infrastructure, you can have multiple servers and physical resources located in your server room. You can also have them in a data center, storing your business data.

What Are the Benefits of a Virtual Infrastructure?

The following are some of the business benefits of a virtual infrastructure:

  • Virtual infrastructures make better use of hardware resources because the virtual machines all use what they need, when they need it. If some machines are active other machines might be in a low-use phase, so fewer resources are wasted as a result. If you’re an organization always requiring a high amount of performance power, however, a virtual infrastructure might not be well-suited to your needs.
  • When you use virtual machines, you can run operating systems and applications that wouldn’t otherwise be compatible with one another.
  • Virtual infrastructures consolidate servers, reducing operating costs and capital that can come with variables like power and security.
  • A virtual infrastructure is inherently scalable. You can scale up or down as needed, reacting quickly to changing demands.
  • Because applications can be provisioned faster, as can resources, IT teams can respond quickly to demands, improving productivity and making for a more efficient and agile IT team.
  • Virtual machines can be moved between servers easily.
  • Virtual infrastructure is more disaster resilient.
Managing a Virtual Infrastructure

When it comes to the management of a virtual infrastructure, you have to focus on your capacity. You’re running more than one workload at the same time, and so you need to make sure you know the capacity, and you’re able to predict any trends that could create adverse outcomes.

There’s also the risk of virtual machine sprawl to be aware of. What this means is that since a virtual machine can be so easily created, you might end up having more than you need, leading to wasted resources, performance issues, and general inefficiency.

Finally, you should also manage your virtual infrastructure with an eye toward performance, often caused by issues with capacity or virtual machines that have been incorrectly configured. There’s also the potential for a situation where too many virtual machines are utilizing the same piece of hardware.

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