Virtualization is when we run software to simulate the server hardware and operating system (OS), which then hosts our application system. This host software looks just like a physical server to the hosted application system running on it. Effectively, we are creating an extra layer of abstraction within our application system build, isolating the business application from the physical machine it runs on.
We may still choose to own and manage the underlying host hardware and OS. We can possibly put our host in the cloud, or have it otherwise managed by a 3rd party. In any case, our application system becomes less affected by hardware limits, OS fixes, and upgrades. Our application system becomes more resilient, easier to manage, and even more portable.
We often say Virtual Machine (or VM) to generically encompass the host software that imitates a computer or server. VM Ware is one of the leading producers of virtualization software, but there are more and more competing producers and products in this domain.
Maximo has supported virtualization for several releases now, and the virtualization options have been increasing, inline with this technological IT trend.
Why might we want to virtualize our Maximo system
Virtualization benefits hold true for Maximo, as they do with many other enterprise level software solutions. Not all organizations will find the same gains, but following are some of the more common:
- To run multiple application servers on one physical server, with clear economy
- VMs on the same host are independent, outages to one do not affect the others
- VMs can easily be moved between physical servers, for performance adjustment, or otherwise
- For example, during hardware maintenance, VMs can be moved to avoid interruptions or limited maintenance windows
- Often the physical server can be changed independently of the VMs, except for a physical outage
- Often the VMs can be changed independent of the physical server
- Additional VMs can be added to deal with temporary demand spikes
- It is easier to outsource maintenance of the infrastructure (cloud) underlying physical machines
- The VM can be put in a technology we know, independent of the physical machine, or visa versa
- We can create more complete System backups more easily (hence more frequent), and restore
- We can protect the environment more easily from a security point of view
- The application is harder to reach; through the VM extra layer
- VMs allow us to scale more easily, to grow in terms of processing power (JVMs) and storage
- We can easily create Dev, Test or TRNG environments or images from Prod regularly; a VM copy
Individual organizations and cases may find additional purpose to virtualization, but if we research the question, these are the reasons that come up more frequently.
When is it a good idea to virtualize our Maximo system?
When virtualization technology first became commercially available, there were limited VM software vendors, providing limited emulation options. Not many Operating Systems were emulated, emulation could only run on a limited set of server hardware, and there were limited compatible software applications that could support it. It was expensive and difficult to find experienced help. Virtualization used to be something considered by very large organizations with large IT budgets, or niche functions only.
There are now multiple VM providers, with multiple options for most commercial hardware and operating systems. Virtualization is now much more available with more scalable products for even smaller organizations and more modest IT budgets. Likewise, Maximo is also now able to run on several VM platforms.
With Maximo version 7.5, IBM opened the door even further, providing a Maximo license fulfillment option via the download of a Maximo VM, already installed and ready to use. This meant with a limited IT budget, we could potentially have Maximo running for a small number of users; unzip the Maximo VM to our server and run it. Since this is no longer directly available as a download, similar options are available through professional services, such as Createch. If you are interested in one of the many cloud or hosting services, again Createch has worked with many virtualization products and hosting providers and can help you find some of best options.
So now, for even a small number of Maximo users, a Maximo install has a viable business case due to the widespread availability of scalable and affordable delivery options within hosting and virtualization technology.
So now I think, if we ask when does Maximo virtualization makes sense? I will say, “always”!
Considerations – nothing is for free right?
It is not to say there are no costs or risks. Certainly, the ‘Keep it simple’ sayers would disagree with the presented verdict.
- Virtualization will create something new to maintain within my IT portfolio
- Adding an extra VM layer does consume more processing and storage; how much will vary
- Running multiple VMs on a single physical host may require a larger physical host
- Even though the VMs on a single host are independent of each other
- the limited load of each VM can in total cause an overall performance risk
- It is best not to put all VMs on one single physical server, for a potential single point of failure
1 - Yes, virtualization adds something new to maintain, and will not bring new functionality to Maximo. The business case to virtualize Maximo is not straight forward, bringing up concepts such as maintainability, business resilience, scalability, adaptability, and synergy. If any of these words or the ‘whys’ above are in discussion, virtualization may be the answer, and likely cost and risk will be paid back outside of Maximo.
2 - To determine the VM software overhead, we need to look at the chosen product. The big names are VMWare, Microsoft, and Citrix, but there are many other providers. Each product can tell us how to estimate the overhead.
3 & 4 - To know the other half of these questions we need to look at the processing power our physical servers currently have, and the used power by our Maximo applications servers. The math of consumed application power, virtualization overhead, and available physical power will determine if and where there are savings or a VM plan.
5 – It is true that all VMs on one physical server may reduce cost and complexity, but it will also cause that server to be a potential single point of failure; If the server fails, then all VMs on it fail. It is always recommended to have two or more physical servers, each with a two or more VMs, for the ideal cost, shared load, and resilience balance.
Still, when does Maximo virtualization makes sense? Always!