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Has it gotten easier to virtualize applications that demand high I/O?

In the past, virtualizing real-time applications and other demanding workloads was avoided. With recent storage improvements, has it become easier?

It used to be an axiom that virtualizing several types of server applications didn’t bear trying; databases, email and real-time applications were among those that could easily overload a hypervisor and the other parts of a virtualization system. However, improvements in bandwidth to storage -- as well as lower latencies and vastly greater IOPS -- have removed the biggest hardware barriers when virtualizing applications.

Hardware improvements in storage include both the interfaces, with Fibre Channel that will run at up to 16 Gbps, and iSCSI Ethernet -- which runs at more than 10 Gbps -- providing a cost-effective alternative. Also, the speed of the storage systems has been enhanced through the use of flash, whether as cache, Tier 0 or in all-flash arrays. This has greatly reduced latency as well as improved both throughput and IOPS. As flash continues to come down in price, even low-budget storage systems come with better performance than the best available a few years ago. And today’s cloud-based systems can even offload processing and storage to hosted systems, providing small organizations with access to major computing power for a small monthly fee.

There may still be some issues around virtualization of real-time applications on the software side, but virtualization of email and database systems is much more common than it used to be, if not commonplace. It’s true some databases and email systems may require the full resources of the server they’re running on, but even then, clustered systems running on multiple virtual machines on multiple servers have become a standard way of handling a database or email system that won’t fit comfortably on a single server any longer.

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