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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, How do you explain virtualisation to non-technical users? in Technical; I start off using "cutlery drawer" as a way of taking an existing resource and partitioning it such that you ...
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    How do you explain virtualisation to non-technical users?

    I start off using "cutlery drawer" as a way of taking an existing resource and partitioning it such that you have discrete amounts assigned to a particular thing and they can't interfere with each other.

    But that example breaks down a bit when getting to snapshots, memory overcommits, live motion, thin provisioning etc

    So how do you explain it so they grasp the basics and don't just glaze over and start looking for escape routes?

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    I'd guess you need to step back and think about what you need them to know. Are you trying to get a budget from management in order to implement this? In which case, they don't need to understand the technical stuff at all, just the benefits.

    As an example, they almost certainly know that the network users can go to any machine and access the same set of files without having to worry how they got there and if one machine is out of order then you just use another one. VMotion gives you a similar kind of thing - the physical server box fails and you can just move the virtual server to another computer just like moving the pupil to another computer.

    I know this isn't technically correct but it gives a feel for the sort of thing that is understandable in terms of benefits.

    Hope that helps to get you started!

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    Domino's Avatar
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    Maybe a metaphor isn't the way to go for this?

    I'd explain the terms 'Physical' and 'Virtual' in this setting, and then illustrate how virtual servers can exist on physical boxes with a simple diagram.

    Things like memory overallocation and live motion can then be explained by further graphics (I've found a simple flash animation helps in this case)

    In my eyes I'd expect people to be understand that without the need to torture a metaphor to get it to fit the setting

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    Depends on the person, are we talking computer-friendly people who don't understand really technical server stuff, or completely non-techies who think the 'computer' is just the screen?

    If the former, explain the basics of what a server and service is then show them the VMware VI3 Demo video (you can still find it on YouTube) which explains things really well.

    If the latter, they shouldn't need to know any of the technical aspects so just explain all the benefits of virtualisation and why people do it.

    Personally, I tell people:

    • What a server is - just a very powerful PC with some specialist connections and redundant components in it, so a power supply can fail and it'll still stay running.
    • What a 'service' (in the server sense) is e.g. Exchange is our email server, it needs to be always running on a computer (server) that's always up, and people connect to it so it can process information.
    • I then explain that normally this works by having server hardware on which the Operating System (e.g. Windows) is installed, and then the service (e.g. Exchange) sits on top of this. If that server completely breaks, Exchange goes down, and they have no email access until it gets fixed, which may take some time.
    • After that I go through how with virtualisation a 'special layer' called a hypervisor is installed directly on the server hardware, and the Windows operating system and services go on top of this. Doing this removes the tie between the physical server and the services that run on it. In this way an operating system and service can be easily moved between physical hardware.
    • I sum it up I tell them that if the Exchange server died, it could take up to a week to get replacement hardware, get the server installed, Exchange working and the data restored. I tell them that if we virtualise it properly with shared storage I can get the downtime from a week to a couple of minutes.
    • The worried look then turns to a smiley face and I hope for budget approval...


    Chris

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    It's a mix of people really and not for budgetary purposes. I occasionally get people ask what it is because it's been a line item on "list of things school has done" and I was a after a 5-minute verbal intro that gets across the concept of virtualisation (abstracting from the hardware etc) and also the benefits without being too misleading or technical.

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    I know that some people tend to avoid metaphor which is the best course but sometimes the gap to understanding is just to great and you must resort to drawing comparisons.

    I would use the concept of work to describe this as the same basic dynamics apply. Imagine an office with a single employee, that employee has a lot of space and can run around doing lots of different stuff but is only one person so can get distracted and confused by doing so many tasks at once. They can also only use a fraction of the office at once. Virtualisation is hireing more staff, with more staff the whole office can be utilized, each employee can focus on a limited number of jobs at a time and so more work can be done with less confusion.

    Redundancy is a second office somewhere else and live migration is simply moving employees from one office to another if the first floods or catches ebola. Each office is a server, remote storage could be a warehouse where the documents and stuff are kept etc.

    Nice and simple and quite close to the actual concepts and workflows involved.

  7. 3 Thanks to SYNACK:

    apaton (2nd May 2010), Soulfish (29th April 2010), TechMonkey (29th April 2010)

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    That's actually a really good way to explain it Synack. Ta

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    As TechMonkey says as metaphors go yours work quite well to explain virtualisation. Thanks Synack I'll be adding that to my list of ways to explain virtualisation

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    I just used a very simple way of explaining the principals of it, and used a picture diagram in a conference I presented at in January, and that is you have say 10 servers currently and they become 2, without reducing your performance or computing power whilst, potentialy, increaising your uptime, resilance and in some cases performance.

    The picture was of a HP ProLiant with a Windows box on top of it, that merged into the same server with 4 windows boxes on it (and to cover any non-Windows people in the audience a *Nix box as well).

    That seemed to get the message home quite easily to the non-IT users.

    Obviously you have to think about the cost, heat, cooling, power etc but start simple and work upwards

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