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Introduction to Virtualizing Business Critical Applications

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This chapter explores why organizations should consider virtualizing their business critical applications, covering the many benefits that organizations can realize by moving these applications into their virtual infrastructure or private clouds.
This chapter is from the book

Virtualization has grown over the years from a niche technology for development and testing to a standard technology found in today’s data centers. As organizations have become more comfortable with virtualization technology, more and more workloads have become virtualized. If you are reading this book, your organization is likely already traveling down the path of virtualizing servers and reaping the benefits it brings.

Organizations can realize many benefits by virtualizing their servers. They can reduce the power and cooling requirements in their data centers by reducing the number of physical servers required to support their business. By reducing the number of servers required, organizations also save money on the capital costs of servers in addition to the costs of ongoing maintenance and support. Virtualization also facilitates easier disaster recovery by encapsulating virtual machines (VMs) into just a few files, making servers more portable and enabling them to run on dissimilar hardware. We’ll discuss these benefits in greater detail later in this chapter.

To achieve these benefits, organizations often seek to virtualize as many servers and applications within their environments as possible. Unfortunately, many organizations reach a level of virtualization where all but their most critical applications have been virtualized.

In this chapter, we explore why organizations should consider virtualizing their business critical applications. We explore the many benefits that organizations can realize by moving these applications into their virtual infrastructure or private clouds. The chapter also reviews some key risks and challenges that organizations can face as they take on a large project like this. Finally, we review common objections and provide counterpoints to each objection to help application owners understand the benefits of virtualization.

By the end of this chapter, you should have a good understanding of why organizations should choose to pursue virtualizing their business critical applications and how to handle common application owner objections. This information should help you build a business case for virtualizing these applications in your own environments.

What Are Business Critical Applications?

Before getting into the benefits, risks, and common objections with virtualizing business critical applications, it is important to understand and define just what makes an application “business critical.” Though exact definitions might differ on this subject, most people would agree that the definition of a business critical application includes the following two key elements:

  • An application without which an organization is not capable of operating the business
  • An application that causes the business to lose significant revenue if it is down or operating slowly

Put into plain terms, a business critical application can be any application that is critical to a business. An application that is not critical to one business might be absolutely critical to another. Simply put, if an application meets the two criteria previously defined, it is likely to be a business critical application to that particular organization.

For example, consider a retail store that runs an application that controls its cash registers. Without this application functioning properly, the cashiers are unable to scan in items or accept payment from customers. That business is unable to operate until that application is back online.

As another example, consider a law firm that relies heavily on the creation of documents for court filings. For a law firm a document management system is a business critical application because it helps lawyers quickly save, categorize, and find documents related to the cases they are working on. Lawyers typically bill their clients by the hour, so if that system is down, the loss of revenue can be easily measured and is often quite high.

The applications covered in this book are business critical to most organizations, but are not meant to reflect the full scope of business critical applications. Though your organization might use some or all of the applications covered in this book, the concepts discussed are relevant to all business critical applications.

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