Is Virtualization a Valid ‘Green’ Technology for Emerging Companies?

Is Virtualization a Valid ‘Green’ Technology for Emerging Companies?

If you’re like most small-medium sized business owners, you own and independently operate a business with less than 100 employees, have revenues of less than $500,000 annually, and are not market dominant. You may be wondering if the new, ‘greener’ technologies can work for your company. Can your business enjoy the same benefits as your larger counter-parts by investing in ‘green’ technologies such as virtualization? The global economic downturn means that it is more important than ever to ensure that every penny counts and that your business is run efficiently and cost effectively. This post will (hopefully) help you to identify whether your company can benefit from implementing virtualization technology while reducing your environmental impact.

Benefits of Virtualization Technology

  • Virtualization is a green technology that is rapidly growing in both acceptance and importance. It is essentially software that sits under the operating system ("OS") and allows physical servers or desktop systems to become ‘virtual’ equipment. Instead of having a bank of servers for different purposes, under-utilized in terms of storage while consuming large amounts of energy, you can have a single physical server running a variety of virtual servers under the virtualization model. A few benefits of this model include:
  • If one of the virtual servers suffers from a malfunction, the data can be transferred quickly and relatively easily to a new virtual server thus minimizing disruption to your business and decreasing any downtime or inconvenience to clients and customers.
  • New software can be rolled out across a network quickly and simply via a remote connection.
  • Power consumption and cooling requirements are also reduced with the reduction in equipment.
  • Space requirements decrease once virtualization is implemented due to the decreasing amount of physical hardware needed.
  • Network maintenance time and costs are decreased leading to increased efficiency.
  • You need only to build a server once but can deploy it many times across the network or system.
  • Allows for hassle free software evaluation without the need for installation or configuration which can lead to delays and problems.
  • New applications, test patches, or operating systems can be easily tested.

Virtualization software such as VMware Server offers many features that companies can take advantage of.  For example, the software has a ‘snapshot feature’ which allows you to roll back to a clean system at any time. In other words, if something gets messed up when trying out new software/programs, you can easily reconfigure the system to its’ original state prior to the testing.

Environmental Considerations
Energy efficiency and the reduction of a company's carbon footprint is a significant selling point for virtualization software. By implementing virtual servers rather than physical servers, hardware resources are better utilized and require less overall equipment/energy. VMware suggests that such energy savings can be as high as 80% and up to 4 tons of CO2 emissions are eliminated via a single virtual server; a significant feature when looking to lessen your own company’s environmental impact.  A further benefit of server virtualization in particular is the saving of approximately 7000kWh of electricity annually (equating to around $700 per year).

Free Versions for Smaller Companies
For some time, large businesses have been using virtualization to improve efficiency, lower costs, reduce their carbon footprint, and lessen downtime due to hardware or system failures. Savings can be significant due to the size of their operations and the downscaling that virtualization offers.  The question remains however: can virtualization be scaled down to benefit smaller companies? 
Unfortunately most businesses do not have the luxury of economies of scale enjoyed by large corporations. They are typically constrained by their lower staffing ratio, space, market share and turnover. Free virtualization software is available and increasingly geared towards smaller businesses. For example, VirtualBox available through Sun Microsystems is free open-source software which is undergoing continual development. VMWare, mentioned earlier, has a free version as well albeit a limited one. The point is that these free software packages are available to you therefore budget constraints are essentially a non-issue when considering virtualization technologies.  That of course doesn’t mean the process will be completely free.  It may be necessary to factor in training costs, salary costs for a virtualization specialist or even the cost of a freelancer to install and implement the new virtualization software. You may want to have a member of your existing staff trained to take over the management of the network once it is setup correctly. Even with these up-front costs however, the ROI is typically substantial and the lessened environmental impact noteworthy.

Implementation Challenges
Virtualization of servers, networks and desktop systems can be technically challenging often requiring a good knowledge of the software and its capabilities.  Small businesses in particular will have to carefully consider the differences between free and paid software versions taking into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of each.  While larger companies have the resources to fund these types of projects, small businesses will need to be creative in making them happen.  Most entrepreneurs I know excel on a day-to-day basis at getting things done with limited resources so this will be nothing new to most of you.  

While virtualization has been popular with larger companies for some time, it is increasingly being seen as a viable option for many smaller businesses. This is especially true now that free software versions are available.  At a time when businesses of all sizes are struggling, smaller ones in particular need to consider whether they can afford not to take advantage of the benefits of virtualization. Virtualization is one method that you can potentially impact both your bottom-line and the environments in.


JD Carr is the co-founder and writer for