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How hardware-assisted virtualization changes consolidation equation

Service provider takeaway: Service providers can approach customers with an explanation of how virtualization has advanced in recent years, owing partly to Intel VT and AMD-V on-chip hardware virtualization support.

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Server virtualization support

You may have heard about Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) and AMD Virtualization (AMD-V) on-chip hardware virtualization support a few years ago, but there's a good chance you weren't paying attention then. Now, of course, virtualization is the big buzz in IT channels, and you have likely already developed a strategy for explaining and assessing the technical benefits of virtualization for your customers. But what does the Intel VT and AMD-V support mean for customers? Let's take a look at four ways that hardware-assisted virtualization support has helped drive virtualization technology adoption.

  • Hardware-assisted virtualization is less clunky than before. Your customers might have been turned off to virtualization in the late 1990s and early this decade because it seemed pretty kludgy -- slow, problematic and generally neat in theory but not really useful in the real world. Operating systems don't expect to have to share physical resources, which is one of the fundamental tenets of a virtual machine -- to share hardware with the host OS and several guest OSes. Hardware-assisted virtualization moves those distribution tasks to the hardware, removing a layer of abstraction that penalized performance and usability. With hardware-assisted virtualization, your customer's users will have a much more seamless experience. And with sluggish performance gone as an impediment, your customers will likely consider virtualization for a variety of scenarios that up till now have been discounted.
  • Hardware-assisted virtualization moves your customers into the future. Rarely in computer purchasing can you attain two goals with the same buy, but this is one situation where you can. Since all chips with the Intel and AMD virtualization instructions are x64-capable, your customers can take advantage of hardware-assisted virtualization and at the same time gain access to 64-bit computing. Microsoft's Hyper-V server virtualization technology runs only on 64-bit hardware, and many line-of-business applications are moving toward supporting production use on the 64-bit platform only.
  • Hardware-assisted virtualization takes less hardware "might" than before. With previous virtualization solutions, your customers had to purchase expensive hardware because the entire resource base of the computer had to be completely virtualized. Because the underlying physical hardware didn't understand how to support a virtual machine, the software had to do the heavy lifting. Software emulation is much, much slower than emulation performed at the hardware level, so you need vast amounts of memory and a very fast processor to be able to do anything virtual. With hardware-assisted virtualization, your customers can scale back on mammoth requirements.
  • Hardware-assisted virtualization is affordable and cross-platform. Since hardware-assisted virtualization capabilities come on essentially all of the mainstream chips available in the channel now, there is no special premium attached to the support, and the chips work with a wide variety of virtualization software products. Your customers won't be locked in to any platform or any particular virtualization solution.

About the author
Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. Jonathan's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and most recently Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual.


This was first published in May 2008

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