Network World has a story about how an online University narrowly avoided the fires around Santa Barbara, Calif., last month. The disaster was averted as a direct result of a virtualization exercise which was completed scant months earlier. The culmination of the project saw some 30 servers consolidated into a virtualized network based on Microsoft's Hyper-V technology; the move made it possible to run the entire network from just four HP ProLiant BL460c blades and a HP SAN.
When the fire threatened to envelope the data center where the network was originally housed, the team made the decision to pull the hardware out and literally transport it to safety on the backseat of a car. With some quick negotiation, the University pulled off the emergency migration and was back online in about 25 hours -- something that would not have been possible in its previous non-virtualized setup.
I have been a strong proponent of implementing virtualization since my first time evaluating VMware's GSX Server for an SMB (Now known simply as VMware Server) years before it went mainstream. As a result, we opted for a single, more expensive server, which consolidated about half a dozen physical machines that are due for retirement as virtual machines.
Pertaining to the above report, I have actually written about the benefit of virtualization in terms of business continuity and disaster recovery. While somewhat dramatic, I felt that it soundly reaffirms one of the key advantages of virtualization.
Of course, there are downsides inherent to virtualization, too. Other than the obvious heightened security risk of having the entire network of an organization compressed into just one or two physical machines, there is also a more insidious management danger known as virtual server sprawl.
Ultimately, I believe that virtualization has become an inescapable cornerstone of the modern data center for businesses. Leveraged correctly, virtualization makes it possible for small and medium business do much more with less.