Virtualisation can be defined in its most common form as running several instances of Windows Server on the same physical server simultaneously.
Virtualisation allows you to scale down what would normally be a 3- or 4-server network onto a single machine saving a lot on the initial purchase, ongoing maintenance, and power costs of a multi-server network. Good for your budgets and good for the environment.
From a technical perspective there are also benefits in disaster recovery, backups, and deployment of new services. A virtualised system can also copy existing servers for testing and development; for example, a trial upgrade to new operating systems or server applications before going live.
There are two main vendors for virtualisation technologies - VMware and Microsoft.
Market leader VMware's established virtualisation product range offers advanced features not available from other vendors, from their base level 'licence-free' system up to the corporate/enterprise solution. Features such as Flexible Resource Allocation give the ability to add hardware resources to virtual servers on-the-fly
Lacking many of the VMware's 'bells and whistles', Microsoft's Hyper-V™ compensates with an easier-to-use interface and very generous licensing benefits. Depending on the underlying Windows Server product (typically Windows Server 2008), you could be automatically licensed to run up to 4 virtual Windows 2008 (R2) Enterprise servers - four for the price of one! Advanced reporting and management tools available to VMware can be found in Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager™ software which can be added later if necessary.
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