On: 29 Nov 2017

Stephen O'Herlihy, Chief Technical Officer at PFH recently spoke to Grainne Loughran on how virtualisation has become the norm for business.

Virtualisation as a concept hasn’t changed much since it began to enter the mainstream in Irish businesses in 2007. But while the fundamentals behind it remain as strong as ever, the practice of virtualisation has extended beyond its original remit and is beginning to permeate even more deeply into IT structures than it was originally envisaged it could do. Ten years on, there are few businesses which haven’t implemented virtualisation to a basic degree, but those who have are looking for ways to make their investment stretch even further.

“The vast majority of businesses we are seeing in the Irish marketplace have virtualised almost everything they can because they see the benefits of virtualisation,” said Stephen O’Herlihy, Chief Technical Officer at PFH Technology Group. “There are still sticking points when they come to very large, business-critical applications, primarily the likes of Oracle systems and non-x86 systems which can be non-virtualised and certainly there are solutions out there where customers’ legacy systems can be virtualised. But from a business’ perspective, they’ve seen so much success from virtualisation which is essentially CPU and RAM virtualisation. Now they’re wondering what’s the next step, and it’s very much around continuing that story and virtualising other resources in the data centres, such as storage and network virtualisation.”

However, using multiple different virtualisation options might not always be cost-effective. O’Herlihy said that optimisation of the solutions already in place is currently one of the major trends among customers: “Put simply, what’s happening in the marketplace is optimisation. What’s next is to optimise what you already have, particularly for customers who have multiple virtualisation hosts. They can reduce their number of hosts by 50 per cent or even greater, purely because of the density of what’s there. The cores and CPUs and servers which are being used and have been used over the last couple of years, with Moore’s law, are increasing and doubling every 18 months, so as things improve and get bigger it makes perfect sense to optimise.”

Optimisation, initially of the number of hosts being used, brings further benefits to improve the return on investment for businesses.

“By optimising there’s a big cost saving. What we’re seeing then is that cost savings can be ploughed into the next phase, which is adopting the more advanced virtualisation solutions, such as software defined storage — for example, VMware vSAN, where you’re virtualising your storage arrays, reducing the complexity of your storage arrays — and virtualisation of the networks,” said O’Herlihy. “So the idea is that optimisation releases capital which allows you to spend on more advanced technologies on top of the virtualisation stack.”

It is larger enterprises that are most likely to need to automate processes rather than SMEs, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other benefits that SMEs can make the most of. “A larger enterprise more than likely will demand some level of automation purely because they have a lot more repetitive tasks that have to be carried out on a regular basis. A small business doesn’t need automation, potentially their IT team is a one man show so it makes no business sense — but the likes of security and storage virtualisation, those technologies are the same whether you’re an SME or a larger enterprise,” said O’Herlihy. “We have customers out there that are using VMware vSAN and have eliminated their mid-range storage array and they’ve reaped the benefits of software defined storage. No matter what size the business is, software defined storage is going to give benefits.”


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