Virtualisation of mission critical environments

Jim Thompson, VP and CTO of Technology, Consulting and Integration Solutions business unit for Unisys discusses the challenges of virtualisation in mission critical environments.

Not all applications are created equal and some are more critical to business than others. Mission critical systems or applications are those that run operations where downtime would dramatically impact the organisation.

Therefore virtualising mission critical applications becomes a challenge.

Organisations with mission critical solutions are concerned about the stability and the predictability of virtualised environments, and so they tend to be the last to be virtualised.

The fear is that when you take a number of virtual environments and put them together on one machine, one environment can affect the performance and the stability of another.

These organisations are looking for deterministic performance i.e. they run the same way every time. They also want to ensure that the data isn’t compromised. Therefore, most mission critical applications in many enterprises are yet to be virtualised.

There is a segment of the market called non-mainframe mission critical. This typically refers to Unix environments of one form or another, running business or mission critical applications, usually on a dedicated computing platform. These tend not to be virtualised due to the challenges of deterministic performance and security.

Often people with these applications are attracted to run them in a Linux space, but are hesitant to do so because they don’t think it will deliver the same level of security and stability that they have in their proprietary Unix environment. They are forced to choose between maintaining performance, security and compliance and a more cost effective standard environment.

Yet Linux and Windows are changing the data centre landscape. Organisations are standardising more environments on Linux and Windows. According to Gartner, “by 2017, 65 percent of applications running on proprietary versions of Unix in 2012 will have been migrated to x86 (primarily on Linux)”.

The solution requires rethinking the way mission critical solutions are deployed. Today’s Intel Xeon technology has the power and scalability to cost effectively support high availability applications like SAP and Oracle. This ideal solution provides the characteristics of mature legacy systems like Unix and mainframe environments on an Intel Xeon platform.

Unisys developed its new Forward! fabric computing platform that delivers the mission critical attributes of a Unix and mainframe environment on Intel Xeon technology. And at the heart of the Forward! architecture is patented secure hard partitioning technology called s-Par.

The secure partitions enable dedicated physical resources of processing, memory, and I/O for virtualising isolating and simulating a physical environment. Secure partitions can be connected through lightning fast in-memory connections on a single server and high speed secure connections across multiple servers for up to four times faster than traditional communications.

Some may think it surprising that a company steeped in a mainframe heritage has come up with the solution. But we don’t think so; we’re just doing what we’ve always done, providing mission critical computing platforms, we’ve just taken away the need to be locked into a proprietary system.

By Jim Tompson, VP and CTO of Technology, Consulting and Integration Solutions business unit, Unisys

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