Mission Critical Applications Joining The Virtualization Party

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The key to the sale, according to Vinup, is to make customers aware that they won't have to sacrifice performance when making the physical-to-virtual shift. In fact, in many cases customers will actually see a performance improvement, according to solution providers.

"We recently did an ERP migration into a virtualized environment. We used the same exact same hardware and got better performance by moving from internal disk to SAN using virtualization," Vinup said.

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider, is seeing steady business from virtualizing customers' databases, fueled in large part by the performance gains they're getting. "Oracle database and SAP actually perform better in a properly virtualized infrastructure," he said.

The only migration scenarios that pose problems are ones involving legacy hardware or extremely I/O intensive applications, Vinup said. "We've had one case in the last six months where a customer had an application that couldn't be virtualized," he said. "It was an Oracle system at a bank, and it's only an issue with older storage or servers. All newer equipment can handle virtualization."

But although physical-to-virtual migrations make sense, they can be tricky to pull off. Champion Solutions Group is currently in the midst of migrating a customer's SQL database on physical infrastructure into a vSphere-based cloud. The biggest challenge, Mulligan says, is ensuring that the infrastructure components surrounding the database aren't disrupted during the course of the migration.

"It's a very large move in light of the operational dependencies a company typically has on that system. There are lots of moving pieces and integration points for applications, so it's a big project," Mulligan said.

Server virtualization became popular due to the capex savings it yields, but that boom phase is fading quickly into the rearview mirror. But organizations that are moving mission critical applications to virtual environments aren't doing it for the capex savings, but to improve scalability and performance, or for disaster recovery purposes.

In many cases, customers are taking this step as part of the infrastructure evolution that the cloud necessitates.

"What's happening is that companies are developing cloud strategies and they're moving their whole data centers from physical to virtualized in preparation for private cloud offerings," said Mike Strohl, president of Entisys, a Concord, Calif.-based virtualization VAR. "This means everything is being virtualized, except for critical databases."

Next: Data Warehousing Systems Making The Jump

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