If you asked most people outside of IT about virtualization and how it might help their business, your responses will probably vary quite a bit. The idea of virtualization has seeped into their consciousness, along with big data, iWorkers and other aspects of this new world of work. But nailing down specifics could be a challenge. Let’s look at how virtualization is changing IT infrastructure and helping companies innovate.

History of virtualization

Much of the push towards virtualization began back in the mid-2000s, with the growth of VMware Inc., which was eventually acquired by EMC Corporation. Virtualization made headlines by enabling x86 computers to run more than one operating system and application at a time. That gives a big lift to computing horsepower, as typical workstations often operate at just five to 15 percent of capacity. Another way to think about it is in terms of idle assets, as GE’s Jeff Liedel, executive director of the company’s global IT operations, told CIO Journal.

“From a cost perspective, virtualization allows us to better leverage the hardware that we have across a variety of domains. We see the utilization of capital go up, and that is a good thing for any company.”

Business benefits

At a high level, there are usually at least three things businesses can count on as they move to more virtualized environments.

  • Hardware consolidation, for higher productivity with fewer machines.
  • Faster and more simplified IT management, maintenance and deployment of apps.
  • Running multiple operating systems and applications on one machine.

This doesn’t even get into the potential data security benefits offered by virtual machines — or the drive for more energy efficiency and sustainability. As a test, I plugged 10 servers into VMware’s green calculator and saw that in addition to almost $35,000 in hardware savings, I took nine cars off the road and planted more than 150 trees. Not bad for a few weeks of work in the IT trenches.

Embraced across the enterprise

In the chart below, you’ll see some of the outcomes and motivations for today’s IT decision-makers, including the impact of virtualization from the data center all the way down to end users. Virtualization has literally changed everything — from the way servers are stacked to the need for re-cabling.

“We are headed toward software-defined everything,” John Considine, chief technology officer of Verizon Terremark, told CIO Journal. He continued:

“But instead of racking and stacking and configuring and installing on OS image, they now have the ability to build an entire network through software, fully automated, and deliver the outcome to users.”