Getting Started in Virtualization

Scott Calonico

If you run an MSP and have yet to embrace virtualization, now is the time to get up to speed.

Making use of virtual servers and desktops is no longer the preserve of enterprise-size companies and tech enthusiasts.

Virtualization has numerous potential applications in the SME marketplace too.

These include:

  •  Using virtual servers to consolidate client infrastructures so they use less physical hardware.
  •  Building test and demo environments at minimal cost.
  • Using virtualization to aid backup, resilience and disaster recovery.

Spending a little time with virtualization technology is a great way to get yourself thinking about the ways you could use it on your client networks. You could find yourself able to improve a client infrastructure, ease support AND bill for additional services – all in one go.

Virtualization with VMware Player

VMware player is the perfect product if you are new to virtualization. It is also completely free for non-commercial use, so ideal for a little home testing to familiarize yourself with the technology.

VMware player allows you to create and use virtual machines with a range of operating systems, including Windows (desktop and server), Linux and Google’s Chrome OS.

All you really need for a test environment is a single desktop or server, configured with plenty of hard drive space and RAM. You can create as many virtual machines as you wish, though obviously you should ensure that you have valid licenses for each.

If you have a pile of old PCs and laptops lying around, why not virtualize them? You can then have them instantly available and never have the need to crawl under your desk to change cables.

As soon as virtual technology becomes second nature, it’s time to look at the commercial virtualization products, to see what you could sell on to your clients.

Profiting from Virtualization

Once you become familiar with creating virtual environments, ideas will start to flow, especially when you consider the fact that software companies are now making consistent provision for those who wish to use their products virtually.

For example, Microsoft’s licensing terms allow you to run the Windows Server product range in a virtualized environment if you prefer. In fact, a single server license allows you create multiple virtual servers (the exact licensing terms vary from version to version). Details can be found here:

This means that you can create additional “servers” for speed, resilience and redundancy, without any additional licensing cost. You can offer the kind of fail-over protection that would, just a few years ago, have been out of the financial reach of most SMEs. Furthermore, when your clients purchase a line-of-business application that must have its own server, you can simply create a virtual box, so long as you have hardware available with adequate resources.

These are just two of the ways in which virtualization can change the way you do business and how you design client infrastructures.

Virtualization is here to stay. It has even reached the consumer market, with thousands of people using VMware and Parallels to run Windows alongside OS X on the Apple Macs that continue to gain in popularity. If your MSP isn’t incorporating virtualization in its service offerings, you may need to get with the times.