Most data centers are not 100% virtualized, in fact most hover around a 50% virtualization level. The remaining physical servers are often business critical servers running applications based on Microsoft SQL or Exchange. IT Planners are looking toward “container” technology to gain virtualization-like resiliency for these environments, but most container software like Docker is firmly based in Linux. DH2i’s latest product DxEnterprise promises to bring container technology to the Windows Server operating system.
The Pain of Silos
Even with virtualization the data center is a sea of siloed operating environments. A typical environment may have three or four versions of Microsoft SQL running on two or three different versions of Microsoft Windows Server. Even the virtual infrastructure may be running multiple hypervisors like VMware and Hyper-V, often running on disparate hardware platforms.
Moving instances of SQL or any other application between these different hypervisors, operating systems and hardware platforms is difficult, if not impossible. As a result leveraging the current environment to deliver increased high availability is often a non-starter. This leads many companies to clustering which is even more complex and expensive.
One of the big gains realized when virtualizing is better utilization of server resources. But since many application environments don’t leverage virtualization server, compute and memory resources go wasted. Also, even though most application environments like MS-SQL are licensed on a per-core basis all the cores on that host need to be licensed. Since this essentially adds up to a server not a per-instance license, the software cost of SQL software per server (physical or VM) can be significant.
What Are Containers?
Containers cure all that by taking abstraction to a whole new level, essentially abstracting at the application layer. Each container gets its own logical computer name and IP address allowing it to be moved between physical and virtual hosts with relative ease. As stated earlier, the problem is that most container technology is Linux-based, yet many data centers are largely made up of Windows servers.
What is DxEnterprise?
In DxEnterprise, DH2i has delivered a solution that brings the concept of containers to the Windows environment. It uses lightweight software to create a Vhost which, like a container, is provided with a logical computer name and IP address(s). It also has its own associated, portable NTFS volumes. The metadata within the Vhost coordinates container workload management and directs the managed application to launch and run locally.
Once containerized a Windows application can be safely stacked with other Vhosts on a single physical host without a hypervisor. It can also be moved easily to another host, be moved into a VM in a virtual environment or even be moved to a cloud compute provider.
Many products claim to have instant ROI, a claim that’s seldom true. But with DxEnterprise it very well may be. The ability to safely run multiple applications on the same physical or virtual server can reduce license costs significantly. The ability to easily move applications between physical or virtual environments allows for increased availability without clustering and the ability to seamlessly move an application into the cloud allows for more cost effective application development and retirement.
One of the challenges IT planners face is getting beyond that 50% virtualization level. There are simply some applications that can’t or won’t be virtualized. DxEnterprise allows the other half of the data center to benefit from virtualization-like capabilities without actually being virtualized. The product brings a new level of flexibility to both virtual and physical environments and deserves strong consideration for IT planners looking to increase the reliability of their application environments while driving down costs.