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Virtual vs. Physical Servers: Is Going Green with Virtualization Worth It?

written by: Steve Mallard•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 3/14/2011

Is going green thru virtualization just hype? What is the cost of operating a new computer in comparision to a virtual computer on your network? The cost increase can benefit and save money in the long run if well planned.

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    Using Virtual Machines

    The return of investment (ROI) for a virtual computer can be seen quicker than that of a physical computer. How? With servers costing thousands of dollars per physical server, the hardware needed includes items such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse, case, motherboard, ups and other mission critical physical parts.

    Virtual machines need a host comptuer that has more 'horsepower'. With memory and hard drives being more economically feasible to purchase in today's dollars, a computer (server) running higher end processors, more RAM and hard drive space. Hard drives today cost around .10 per gigabyte (10 cents!) making the purchase of hard drives more affordable than ever.

    With quad core processor prices falling the purchase of a physical server with several terabytes of space is affordable for even the smallest business. These physical servers can in essence hold several virtual servers if they are loaded with plenty of RAM. With processing speeds reaching several gigahertz, a single physical server has the processing power needed for today's applications.

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    Costs of Physical Servers

    The cost of three servers alone with only 80GB harddrives can exceed $1200 each. Loading the servers with several terabyte hard drives further drives the cost to $3000+ each. Each server uses (this example) 2 x 675W redundant power supplies that can use up to 1350 watts of electricity. That's 4050 watts of electricity for these three servers (maximum usage) for the chasis alone. Each of these computers can have separate monitors (KVMs can be used to save money) driving the cost of usage up even further.

    The purchase of one physical server with three times the memory as one of the servers above along with several terabytes of space Windows Operating Systems and quad core processors, the cost will exceed the cost of a single server because of the memory and additional operating systems. The return of investment based on the power usage will quickly be seen and the single server with logical servers. This savings has a lower carbon footprint and saves companies money.

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    Conclusion

    The overall cost for hardware for the initial host server is lower than the cost of hardware for several servers. The cost of operations based on watts used creates an accelerated ROI. One server with several operating systems is easier to backup the server images, uses less space, creates a smaller carbon footprint, saves money and the environment.

    For more information on using virutalization software:

    Sun Virtualbox

    VMWare

    Microsoft's VirtualPC