What the buzz is about: Virtualization and Consolidation

I know everyone has been hearing this continuously for the last 3 years or so, but what does it actually mean?  How does it help the IT department and how does that help the business?  While the two words of Virtualization and Consolidation are separate topics, they often go hand in hand.  I believe the reason for this are to take advantage of new hardware capabilities and new virtualization technologies.  Lets say you bought a new server and wanted to consolidate and migrate all the data from your file server and your mail server.  You’ll essentially end up with a server with more utilization.  Sure, you’ll save a little on time and the electric bill, but that isn’t going to give you the “WOW” factor when it comes to analyzing your ROI. You’ll soon realize that consolidation usually will not fully utilize the full capabilities of your new hardware.  Unlike oil and water, implementation of Virtualization creates a symbiotic relationship with Consolidation.  One could also say it’s the catalyst to a higher ROI.

Why is there a push now?

  • 64-bit operating systems allow for a significant increase in memory
  • Multi-core CPUs creates effective use of processing power
  • VT-enabled CPUs support virtualization specific instruction sets which increase the effectiveness of hardware.
  • Microsoft is now in the market, which usually means it’s growing and here to stay.

Summary of benefits of Consolidation and Virtualization:

  • Lower TCO (power and cooling requirements, less physical assets, reduce time and resources need by IT staff, reduce licensing requirements)
  • Increased flexibility (backups, snapshots, migration, quicker provisioning of new servers)
  • Space savings
  • Makes use of the full capabilities of your new hardware
  • You already have the capabilities, you just need to implement it.
  • Fail-overs can be performed practically instantaneously
  • Upgrades to a new server in the future is greatly simplified
  • It’s much easier  to make  the  resulting  infrastructure resilient  for  business  recovery  and  continuity  solutions

When will you know it’s “GO TIME”?

  • You are trying to cut costs
  • You are trying to increase performance
  • You will be purchasing a new server
  • You spend too much time focused on maintenance
  • You are implementing a software “refresh”
  • Your servers have multiplied to where you have a management problem
  • You need IT to work projects that drive the business
  • Your backup solution is inefficient and ineffective
  • You have a need for a development environment

Advantages of Voice over IP (VOIP)

What Is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is the current technology that allows people to transmit voice signals through the internet instead of over the phone. Most people have already become acquainted with the idea of sending voice over the internet through the use of headsets or microphones, but only a few realize the unique differences between the two.

While a direct connection to a single person or a separate server allowed users to chat with each other using microphones, users still had to have telephone services in order to receive out of network calls. VoIP eliminates the obvious limitations of in network voice communication, and expands it above and beyond our expectations.

Much like an e-mail, users don’t have to pay to send or receive them. E-mails can go anywhere users have set up a mailbox, at any time. Imagine e-mail transforming from text into voice, and virtual mailboxes becoming phones. The result is a completely free, new form of voice technology capable of sending voice from an internet line and converting it into a signal anyone with a phone can receive.

Cost Advantages:
Businesses, especially smaller or medium sized companies, are always in need of more cost-effective tools and solutions. Businesses invest thousands of dollars in order to save money over a longer period of time. VoIP is a service that can potentially provide the results companies are looking for, in an even shorter amount of time. By instantly cutting costs with fewer drawbacks, VoIP has become a popular solution.

  • Telecommunication systems can be merged with current networks, allowing a business to save on the cost of network infrastructure.
  • Remote Web-based interfacing eliminates the need for on-site representatives to repair or troubleshoot phone network issues.  Costs associated with on-site repairs are practically negated.
  • While saving money, VoIP users have found that the service provides much more than the average office phone services. While there were certain limitations with phone services (such as busy lines and expensive remote location calling bills), VoIP has sought to break these limits. Not only do clients receive phone services for nearly no cost, but they also receive tools tailored to make manage and design the network how they want it to be. VoIP puts the client in control.
  • Single IP networked VoIP lines enable extension dialing to expand to multiple, or even distant locations.
  • Applications are all extended to employees at any corporate location (including temporary or remote locations), including, but not limited to: conferencing, voice mail, unified communications, and click-to-dial services.
  • VoIP telecommunications systems are easily simplified into a single network (combined with data networks), allowing for easy management, and the elimination of multiple networks.
  • Remote troubleshooting and management through web-based interfaces. Settings can be changed for specific employees remotely, and without the need to contact service providers or phone system manufacturers.

The 3 evils of Voice over IP (VOIP)

Many of the world’s largest telephone companies are committed to replacing their existing circuit switched systems with voice over IP systems. These packet switch voice over IP systems allow them to transport a significant portion of their traffic with IP. Surprisingly, many calls made over telephone company equipment are already being transported with IP.
Packet switched voice over IP systems are in principle as efficient as a synchronous circuit switched systems, but only recently have they had the potential to achieve the same level of reliability as the public switched telephone network or proprietary PBX equipment. With the invention and implementation of RTP (real time protocol) and SIP (session initiation protocol,) voice over IP has the technological base to obsolete the circuit switched public switched telephone network.

– BY Paul Mahle
Asterisk and IP Telephony / Paul Mahle
Copyright 2003, 2004 by Signate, LLC.

VoIP provides enhanced teleconferencing and remote teleworking to maximize internal productivity, save money and simplify management.

So, you are interested in implementing a VoIP system for your small business, but are unsure of the capabilities of your network. It can be broken down into 3 steps:

1.Determine how well the network is running

2.Deploy the voice over IP service

3.Verify that the service levels are working correctly.

How do you know if you current network is up to the task? What criterias determine if your network is Voice-enabled capable? What are the optimimum factors in running a smooth and clear voice over IP system?

The 3 evils of Voice over IP networks.

1.Delay (minimum of 150ms, use Cisco RTPC + LFI)

This is the time it takes voice to travel from one point to another on the network. It can be measured in one direction or for the entire round trip. The calculations of delay usually involves Network Time Protocol (NTP) and clock synchronization and reference clocks.

2.Jitter (the optimal jitter buffer should fit the network’s differential delay, Cisco’s LFI)

This is the variation in delay over time from point to point. The higher the variation, the more degraded the call quality will be. The amount of tolerable jitter on the network is affected by the depth of jitter buffer on the network equipment in the voice path. When more jitter buffer is available, the network is more able to reduce the negative effects of a broad variation. Unfortunately, a buffer can also be too big. This would increase the overall gap between packets.

3.Packet Loss (less than 2.5-5%, use QoS that differentiates between data and voice packets.)

Packet loss refers to the packets of data that are dropped by the network to manage congestion. Data applications are very tolerant to packet loss, as they are generally not time sensitive and can retransmit the packets that were dropped. Dropped packets in a VoIP network appear as noise in the conversation and may require the speaker to repeat or retype the last word or sentence, which is clearly undesirable.