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Virtualization In Manufacturing

Manufacturing Business Technology took time to talk to Frank Hill, director of manufacturing business development, Stratus Technologies, about virtualization. Hill explains what it is, how virtualization can help manufacturers take advantage of the processing power they may already have and how to mitigate some of the risk facing companies every day.

Manufacturing Business Technology: There’s been a lot of talk about virtualization in the manufacturing world, especially as more companies support virtualization with their software applications.  Can you talk about where virtualization is at and how it might apply to manufacturing?
Frank Hill: Virtualization is not a new technology. It’s been around since mainframe computing. It allows a company to take a single, large computer and divide up its resources in a very safe, isolated way, so that multiple applications and operating systems can all run on a single piece of equipment.
Computer processors have gotten a lot faster — a trend driven by multi-core processors. Just a couple of years ago computers ran on a single-core processor, and then computers started utilizing dual-core processors (which is basically two processors in one socket). Now processors come with 10 cores, meaning you have 10 processors in a single server.
Most automation applications offered by industrial software companies don’t need much processing power. So what companies are doing, if they’re not using virtualization, is deploying 10 boxes (which include 10 computers and servers). Each one of these boxes is only using 10 to 20 percent of the memory capacity and processing capabilities of that machine. Obviously, this is a big waste because companies are buying a lot more equipment. Plus, they’re paying for power, maintenance and administration of these boxes.
So what virtualization allows companies to do is leverage the processing horsepower capabilities of today’s modern servers to run multiple applications without any conflict. When I say applications, I’m referring to virtual machines (VM). A VM is basically an operating system and an application (or a couple of applications) that are isolated so a company can run them on VMware or a single server. Each server can run multiple applications. One VM might be utilizing Windows 2008, another could be using Linux, and yet another VM could be running Windows 2000 — all without any conflict — on the latest, fastest chipset. This allows companies to take advantage of modern, reliable, inexpensive server technology without the need to buy multiple boxes to support that.
Virtualization is a well-known and well-utilized technology in IT. This year, it’s expected that 65 percent of new corporate applications will be deployed in a virtual environment. That means the application is not just going to be on the physical layers of a server — it won’t be one application, one database per machine. Companies can create a virtual environment where they can create VMs on top of individual pieces of hardware that can leverage the full capability and processing power of the servers. The applications will work, and virtualization offers companies tremendous benefits beyond server consolidation. For complete post see here

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