Universities find the virtualization ‘sweet spot’

“Essentially, if a customer buys a server specific application, they end up purchasing hardware that is never fully used to its potential,” he said. “This practice results in wasted energy and hardware costs.”

Virtualization, of course, isn’t limited to server racks. Colleges also have slashed energy costs by virtualizing the hundreds of computers spread throughout campus.

Karl Herleman, CIO at Miami Dade College, has, like many campus technology decision makers, moved his eight-campus school toward virtualization in the past three years. This means one computer in a campus computer lab can power several machines.

Miami Dade College has trimmed its energy consumption by 10 percent since 2008, thanks largely to virtualization, Herleman said.

And while virtualizing computers and trimming budgets will bring a smile to the faces of deans and provosts, Herleman said, creating too many virtualized machines on a college campus can create a “sprawl” effect that makes it difficult for the college’s IT team to manage the growing number of computers, he agreed.

Herleman said sprawl is sometimes unavoidable. Some programs don’t operate easily on the same machine, forcing campus technology departments to approve another virtualized machine to keep programs away from each other on the same hard drive.

“You look at [virtualizing computers] and think, ‘Wow, it’s so easy to create these virtual machines and eliminate the need to buy a bunch of hardware,’” Herleman said. “Then you realize you have to deal with a whole new set of problems that come along with that. It can sometimes be worse than it was before you [virtualized machines].”

Denny Carter

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