Virtualization reality

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

Effective company Web sites are much more than electronic brochures. They provide ways to build brand loyalty and reach out directly to customers. Internet users increasingly are judging companies by the quality of their Web sites. With that reality, a day without a Web site could be the equivalent to a business as a day without working phone lines.

Ascedia, a full-service Web development company located in Milwaukee, understands the importance of Web site redundancy and has made an investment of about $50,000 in a trend that will increase its level of design capabilities while increasing the level of quality in its Web hosting technology.

The trend is called virtualization. Virtualization is an old practice that has suddenly become a hot new trend, according to Mark Roller, creative director for Ascedia.

Virtualization is technology that enables a user to run a software application or operating system on the desktop of a computer that may or may not be compatible with the software or system.

With the help of programs including VMware, a virtualization product from VMware, Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., and Virtual PC Player, developed by Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp., any Mac user can run Windows XP Pro from the same computer, and vice versa.

The original version of the application or operating system is installed and saved on a server. A copy of the application or operating system is saved as a file. Once opened on a desktop, the user can literally hit the play button to launch the program.

With virtualization, the program is installed on the server and runs on the server. The program the end user sees is in the form of a window instead of an application installed onto a desktop.

Part of the reason this technology can work is because it does not require communication with the desktop or the hard drive of the hardware used to view and use the application.

The communication separation also enables users to work in a more secure environment.

Items can be saved on the user desktop, but will not be able to be viewed by a virtual application or server unless the virtualization is running.

“The main computer is used as a husk because the user can store all files off of the machine,” Roller said.

Ascedia uses virtualization internally between its Web developers for the ability to share tools and to avoid complicated installs that may take time or crash a computer.

“Internally, we are using VMware and virtual servers on the development level to try out different technologies or to share tools,” Roller said. “On the enterprise level, we are buying a large server that will host virtual machines, allowing us to be fault tolerant and redundant.”

In February, Ascedia will launch virtualization at the server level. Using a similar concept and the help of VMware, Ascedia is currently building a server system that will consist of a large server that will contain virtual machines, a processor and memory and a separate unit that will contain multiple hard drives. The separation enables Ascedia to support the amount of servers it hosted.

Brian Beaulieu, a manager at Capital Internet LLC, Milwaukee, is working with Roller and Ascedia in the setup of the server level virtualization platform. 

Because the virtual Web servers cannot communicate with each other on the large host server, they run as if they are the only system on the machine. If one Web site goes down because one virtual server contracted a virus, the rest stay up and running.

Customers experience redundancy but can also utilize the “view anywhere” flexibility of virtualization by administering the virtual machine from their desktops at their company location.

With the hard drives on a separate unit, Ascedia can swap new ones in and old ones out of the system without the possibility of having to shut down customer Web sites.

The current set up includes individual servers with two hard drives per server, Roller said.

“We are spending between $40,000 and $50,000 in building out the hardware and time spent, but over the long haul, this will save us money and time,” Roller said. “And the customer will have a heightened level of security and redundancy.”

The investment will allow for continued satisfaction from Ascedia’s customers, an increased value proposition from Ascedia and new service level in terms of hosting, Roller said.

“The goal is to maintain a level of uptime but reduce the amount of labor,” Roller said. “We will also be able to take on more clients who have bizarre hosting requirements.”

Ascedia is making the investment to add value to its customers and reduce time spent working on the hosting technology by its internal staff.

By February, Ascedia will not be transferring all of its clients onto the virtual server system, but some newer clients will receive the higher level of service without being aware of it, Roller said. Ascedia is creating the virtualization platform for its own purposes and only offering it as a service to those who might be interested.

Currently, Ascedia offers two options for Web hosting, Roller said. Sharing a server with other Ascedia clients does not include the purchase of hardware and at a basic level can cost as low as $35 per month.

The second option would be to purchase the hardware for a server and pay for storage of the server and private hosting that at a high level can cost about $400 per month, not including the cost of the hardware.

The cost of hosting a Web site on the new server platform will be between $35 and $400 per month, depending on the Web site and type of client. However Ascedia has not yet priced out the new service.

“The virtualization will help us add new technology to Web sites and save us money in the long run,” Roller said.

Elizabeth Hockerman is a reporter for Small Business Times. Send technology news to her at or by calling her at (414) 277-8181, ext. 121. Technology news can also be sent to: Elizabeth Hockerman, Small Business Times, 1123 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202.

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