Virtualization Replaces Client-Server With Virtual Machines

As mentioned in a previous article on virtualization, the advent of client-server topology thankfully put computing power into the hands of end users, but as these applications were rolled out over many years a number of financial and technical issues became readily apparent.

* Low Infrastructure Utilization – often times operating at less than 25% of total capacity

* Increased Infrastructure Cost – for servers, desktop computers, facilities and cooling

* Increased Maintenance Cost – more network administrators and server upgrades

* Insufficient Disaster Protection – complex networks became more difficult to backup

Coming to the rescue was the implementation of virtualization technology inside x86-based hardware. Pioneered by VMware, this new layer of software allowed multiple “virtual machines” to operate on a single server. Taking advantage of multi-core, multi-processor hardware, these virtual machines act like a single physical computer, complete with CPU, memory, hard drive storage, and network interface.

Operating systems, which are loaded onto each of the virtual machines, behave as though they were running on a dedicated server, even though this fully isolated environment is software based. These operating systems, which can include Microsoft Windows running alongside various flavors of Linux, are completely isolated from each other. If one virtual machine encounters a problem and crashes, the others are unaffected while the problem is resolved and the one machine is rebooted separately.

Beyond the level of a single server, users can now create what VMware calls a Virtual Infrastructure which lets the IT group manage a series of servers as though they were a single machine. In this case, the physical resources of multiple servers, along with associated storage and networks, are pooled in a way that offers greater utilization, availability, performance and flexibility.

Within such configurations, dynamic provisioning allows computing resources to be allocated where needed, and these workloads can even be moved across hardware systems in real time. Scheduled maintenance can also occur without critical applications being taken off line while at the same time reducing overall points of failure.

Virtual machines and virtual infrastructures are being widely deployed, from data centers to industrial automation, video processing and simulation. Trenton offers a broad range of computing platforms that support such applications, using single board computers and backplanes or fully integrated rackmount computers with segmented backplanes supporting multiple SBCs in a single rackmount enclosure.

Two Trenton white papers covering the topics of Cross-Domain Networks and Cluster Computing can provide additional information on how Trenton is serving the needs of high performance computing in a virtualized environment.