Virtualization is a tool that any IT manager or company can utilize to harness the power of underutilized computing resources while at the same time saving money on the heating, cooling, power and real estate physical servers use.

Once a business unit has determined virtualization makes sense, the first step is to perform an assessment of the current and projected computing resources and requirements, says Andy Gladstone, vice president of technical operations at CSU Industries. “This includes the operating systems and applications that the users plan on running on the virtual guests, and a physical inventory of the CPU speeds and core counts and RAM and networking requirements in the current server(s) that will be virtualized,” he said. “There are many online tools available to assist in capacity planning. Each virtualization technology manufacturer maintains one on their website, and there are many third party tools and websites available that can assist in the process.”

Then, once all of the requirements are collected and compiled, the hardware platform can be selected. Any system can be used for virtualizing.

“One key to remember is that the movement and use of virtualized guests on a host is an extremely memory intensive process, and you should consider a 20 percent increase of RAM over current utilization and capacity outputs,” Gladstone pointed out.

“The build process will require the collaboration of your internal IT teams as the hosting and access of the applications and the networking of specific guests to the proper subnets needs to be determined in advance of deploying the virtual servers,” he added. “This will also provide all players with the knowledge of the architecture and infrastructure they will be operating on in advance and will pave the way to smoother upgrades.”

Gladstone provided the following tips for anyone who is thinking of building a host server from the ground up:

* Ask questions and do not make assumptions when choosing the proper host platform. VMware, Red Hat and Microsoft all have strong offerings and highlights in their products, but you need to select the one that is best for you and your management.

* Use the capacity planning programs provided by virtualization vendors, but do not take the outputs as gospel.

* Do not be driven away by sticker shock. The cost of licensing from some vendors can be high (VMware), but the benefits in consolidation of hardware, power, cooling and real estate can far outpace those costs.

*Make sure your upfront investment will translate into savings down the road. Ensure that you are implementing a virtualization plan that will be monitored and managed. “Set it and forget it” is a great strategy to lose money in a virtualized environment.

*Invest in training. Do not assume that old IT dogs can quickly learn new tricks. The amount you spend on training will translate into future savings.