These words are starting to form the next big thing online, so what does it mean?

There are many terms for what is essentially the same thing, so lets see if we can make it a bit more simple 🙂

The “old fashioned way” of hosting

Traditionally your website would be hosted on a physical server, much like your home PC but built to withstand being on 24×7 and always connected to the internet to serve up your website, emails or tweets!

It is possible to ‘cluster’ lots of physical servers together so if one fails the others can take on the load, however this is often complex and brings up new challenges and expenses such as sharing the same files between all the servers. Also you may only have a small site, but one day it appears on the news or a popular website and the ‘slashdot’ effect comes into play, meaning a massive influx of traffic to your site which the server may not be able to handle. Unless you pay for spare servers to be sitting around waiting for this, its hard to protect and keep your site online during such an event.

So given that most servers use around 5-10% of their computing power, that’s a lot of wasted computing power and energy most of the time.

The more efficient and more reliable way

Virtualisation lets you split one very high powered physical server, into several smaller servers, they have their own resources, meaning one physical server can be used much more efficiently. It also allows a servers resources to be scaled quickly if required, a few clicks is all it takes to increase the memory, CPU’s or diskspace a server has access to, letting you react quickly to those spikes in demand and ensuring you only pay for what you need.

A virtual platform could just be one single server sliced up, or a full cluster of servers with shared disks (usually called a SAN). A SAN is essentially a large collection of hard disks which can be accessed by more than one server, meaning that multiple servers can access the same data. This opens up the possibility of servers failing over, meaning if one server failed the virtual servers hosted on it could be moved to another working server and still access the same data, all within a few minutes helping reduce the need for complex failover solutions and reducing the associated cost.

The ‘cloud’ is a term used to describe data or applications held online, however most ‘clouds’ are based on this virtualisation technology, at the end of it all your data is still held on a hard disk somewhere much like it always was, and your application is still running on a server, much like it was. Its the flexibility and additional redundancy that virtualisation provides that really makes the difference, letting you only pay for what you need while (depending on the provider) enjoying the benefit of high end hardware that would usually cost many times the price.

The setup at catalyst2

Our own ‘cloud’ is based on VMware, one of the original and most mature virtualisation platforms, backed by Dell servers and Equalogic SAN’s, we cut no corners in creating one of the most redundant and stable platforms from any UK based host. All the benefits of our management and support, with the added benefit of hardware redundancy and instant scaling, day or night.

  • Dell PowerEdge R610 servers with 48GB RAM and Six-Core Xeons
  • Dell Equalogic SAN’s with 15K SAS disks and replication to another SAN
  • We are VMware professional partners, one of the few who can offer VMware based servers
  • Daily offsite backups
  • 24×7 Freephone Support

What does all this mean for you?

  • A more stable and redundant home for your website and emails
  • Greener hosting for you (virtualisation is much more power efficient)
  • The ability to have a dedicated server of your own setup in hours

If you have any questions about any of our virtualisation platform, feel free to email us –