Virtualisation is not necessarily a technology that can be implemented overnight. It is most effective when phased in gradually, generally in three stages.
Phase one involves abstraction from hardware and server consolidation. The first positive signs users will notice are likely to be the cost reduction of the new system, greater hardware utilisation and user efficiency, closely followed by improved operations. IT departments can take on the responsibility of areas which have previously been run by departments such as operations and maintenance.
The second phase sees multiple instances of the same application being utilised to improve the resilience of applications and business continuity with the use of load balancing, so that applications can be run in the place where the most computing resource is available, therefore improving performance.
The third and final phase, although some would say is still being defined, sees virtualisation at enterprise level with a minimum of intervention from the IT department.
Whilst virtualisation is undeniably a positive move for manufacturing businesses, there are still some potential issues to be considered prior to implementation:
- There is a common misconception that virtualisation automatically means resilience but aditional fault-tolerant hardware is required to provide resilience.
- Often the level of availability is not high enough for a manufacturing or industrial environment where any loss of availability can be costly and damaging – so again additional fault-tolerant hardware is required..
- Clusters require IT expertise to maintain. Standard IT-based solutions often comprise of clustered servers that are used, alongside software, to manage the failover if a host develops a problem. Fault-tolerant systems can compute through failures without suffering any downtime.
- It is important to ensure the serviceable lifecycle of the units is being used appropriately. Fault-tolerant hardware has a much longer lifecycle than standard IT equipment, which is an advantage in a world where you want to keep everything the same, for as long as possible.
- It is equally important to ensure the unit delivers enough processing power to cope with future expansion plans.