Virtualisation is an important and growing trend, and many UK businesses are now incorporating virtual solutions within their IT infrastructures. So what exactly is virtualisation and what benefits could it offer you?

What is virtualisation?
Virtualisation means running software within a virtual environment. Virtual environments are created when operating systems and desktop applications are emulated, and don’t run directly on physical hardware. When software is virtualised, you can run several applications and operating systems on one physical server.

Why would I want to go down the virtualisation route?
You can create a more agile infrastructure, reduce the total cost of IT ownership and minimise downtime.

Specific benefits include:

Server consolidation (for example you can run several operating systems on one physical server, so you get the maximum use from your hardware)

Easier software back-up and disaster recovery

Hosting legacy applications, for example ones that need to run on older operating systems

Reduced test and development costs - you get the most from your hardware, plus improved life cycle management and test coverage

Better business continuity - the flexibility of a virtual set-up helps reduce scheduled and unscheduled downtime

Being greener: fewer physical servers means a smaller carbon footprint

And don’t forget, virtualisation can apply to all the elements of your IT infrastructure: servers, operating systems and desktop applications. Microsoft offers end to end virtualisation options that encompass all these areas.

How does licensing fit in?
We have been adapting our licensing models over the last couple of years so that they translate effectively in the new virtualised world. From a licensing perspective, virtual solutions can be an attractive proposition. In many cases, one licence gives you the right to run one host operating system and unlimited virtual operating systems. Here are some examples:

Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition - one licence allows you to run one host operating system and up to four virtual operating systems (the virtual operating systems can be any prior version or edition of Windows Server 2003 R2)

Windows Server 2003 R2 Datacenter Edition - one licence allows you to run one host operating system and unlimited* virtual operating systems

SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition SP2 - one licence allows you to run any number of instances in the host operating system and unlimited virtual operating systems

BizTalk Server Enterprise Edition 2006 R2 - one licence allows you to run any number of instances in the host operating system and unlimited virtual operating systems

* All physical processors must be licensed.

 To find out more about Virtualization, go to http://www.microsoft.com/virtualization/default.mspx