Migrations can be done in real-time, allowing administrators to make image snapshots of the environments running in production without having to take systems offline, which can significantly minimize planned, and unplanned, downtime and presents another considerable advantage over script-based provisioning.
Besides giving you the ability to more quickly and easily move workloads from your data center into and out of private or public cloud computing environments, image-based provisioning can also be leveraged to simplify other common, important IT initiatives such as consolidating servers or data centers, automating disaster recovery, or building out a dynamic data center, and it can help you do all of these more quickly, efficiently and with fewer risks or resources:
Cloud Computing: A primary driver of cloud computing is to improve IT's ability to be agile. However, one of the biggest challenges with embracing cloud computing is migrating the images of your current server environment to the new cloud computing environment. And, this challenge is magnified if you are using a public cloud service because once your applications are up and running in a public cloud environment, such as Amazon EC2 or Rackspace, it can be very difficult to move them back to your on-premise data center, private cloud or to another public cloud provider's environment.
However, the reality is that not all IT services make sense to host in the cloud, and the systems in your data center are unlikely to be exactly like those being offered by the service provider you choose. You need the flexibility to be able to move workloads in and out of the cloud at a moment's notice, if needed. Image-based provisioning overcomes this challenge by freeing workloads from their underlying physical infrastructure, and provides a simple, reliable method for automating this process in a way that allows either virtual or physical server images to be quickly and easily moved to the cloud and back again.
Data Center Automation: The next-generation data center truly embraces virtualization, beyond just the servers. In a dynamic data center, applications and workloads can be moved quickly as needed. Entire systems can be transported through development, testing and into production using the same image, and can be ported into and out of the cloud with ease, if needed. Systems are more reliable and hardware is interchangeable. As enterprises demand more automation and greater flexibility, image-based provisioning is a key enabling technology in building and automating the dynamic data center.
To build a dynamic data center, core IT processes need to be standardized, orchestrated and automated. Image-based provisioning provides a fast, simple and easy platform for automating many time-consuming, error-prone and complex data center tasks such as provisioning, disaster recovery and server migrations or re-purposing.
Consolidations: Consolidation initiatives are a top priority in many IT organizations as a means to improve efficiency and cut costs. Virtualization is a key technology, but a solution needs to do more. A consolidation solution should eliminate much of the risk and time wasted in doing consolidation projects by providing point-and-click automation to help identify, track and orchestrate resources across the entire consolidation process, ensuring consistency and integrity from end to end. It should be able to easily capture complete images from running servers and move them to a new environment, rapidly provisioning them to any compatible physical or virtual infrastructure.
Disaster Recovery: Every enterprise should ensure that a solid disaster recovery solution is part of their business continuity plan and it must support their overall business strategy. A high availability disaster recovery solution is, in effect, a very expensive, but necessary, insurance policy. However, not all applications and services are created equal, and it is often hard to justify the high cost of a high-availability disaster recovery solution for your entire IT infrastructure.
In a disaster recovery scenario, image-based provisioning can be used to very quickly and automatically recover your non-high availability servers, even to non-identical hardware and across multiple heterogeneous data centers or into a cloud environment, if preferred. This makes it a reliable, flexible and more cost-effective disaster recovery solution for your non-business critical applications and infrastructure.
It's About Choice
Image-based provisioning is a powerful new method for enabling your journey to the cloud for the myriad reasons cited: speed, scalability, portability and simplicity; however, it is not a panacea. It does not afford the same level of flexibility and customization that manual or scripted provisioning methods do, making these approaches better-suited for the initial build and deployment of new systems with a standard OS image or custom configurations.
It comes down to choice and being able to pick the right tool for the job. So if you are looking for a provisioning solution (or looking to replace your current one), make sure you evaluate vendors that provide a comprehensive mix of provisioning methods integrated into a single solution, including image-based provisioning, because one size does not fit all when it comes to provisioning.
Image-based provisioning is a fast and reliable provisioning technology that is designed to help provide the agility you need in this new cloud computing era. It provides maximum system integrity with minimum service interruption and can enable you to provision, consolidate, re-purpose or recover your server infrastructure within minutes.
Although it may not be as simple as clicking your heels or twitching your nose, image-based provisioning does go a long way toward speeding and simplifying your journey to the cloud.