In information technology, change is the only constant. Just consider the road we have travelled since 1983, when I first learned about the Commodore VIC 20 and started on my journey to becoming an automation and interface software professional through my interest and formal studies in the field. The intervening years have seen numerous changes in devices and systems.
In the 1960s, computers were cumbersome and expensive, and designed to perform a single task. With them, a huge share of the computer’s resources were wasted, which gave rise to the idea of virtualisation, allowing the resources of a mainframe computer to be distributed to several terminals. The 1970s saw the development of microcomputers (IBM PC), which were no longer dependent on mainframe computers and dumb terminals. This paved the way for our modern information society. The early 2000s marked the beginning of the era of operating systems and their various versions. As the continuous changes in the systems gathered speed, the idea of virtualisation made a comeback.
Sharing of resources at the core
The basic idea of virtualisation is the sharing of resources. In this model, we have computer hardware on which we run one or more operating systems simultaneously. In practice, a simulated computer environment exists between the hardware and the operating system, creating a solution that does not get outdated, even when rapid changes are taking place in information technology. The virtual layer is designed to adapt to the requirements of the period, with the interface remaining the same. For industry, this means that there is no longer the need to continuously update hardware and operating systems.
In the early 2000s, as technological advances made virtualisation feasible, various manufacturers began to consider openness. In practice, 2005 can be regarded as a watershed, after which all computer processors have come with virtualisation support. This enables resource sharing, with the computer running several operating systems without them interfering with one another’s operations.
A boost to efficiency and information security
Virtualisation offers industrial operators several benefits through improved efficiency of the devices and increased information security.
If the customer has old computers, not all the equipment has to be replaced when these suffer failures. It is possible to make a back-up copy and convert, for example, an old Windows XP to run on a virtual platform and acquire the necessary licences for it.
When the operating system is isolated from the hardware, recovery from an error situation is easy, and there is no need to consider compatibility because the virtual abstraction layer remains unchanged from the perspective of the operating system.
Device failure does not pose a problem either. The virtual layer is just installed on new hardware and the operating system remains the same.
Recovery from information security risks is also significantly quicker. Back-up copies can be automatically stored behind technology that cannot be breached by cyberattacks. We may not always be able to prevent malicious attacks from destroying the system, but we will be able to revert the system to the state it was a week ago, for example, in a matter of minutes by using back-up copies in a way that minimises data losses.
A virtual environment with a maintenance agreement
Globally, virtualisation has become a leading trend in the sector over the past 15 years and as a rule all the large corporations use virtualised computer systems. The use of operating systems has been complicated by continuous updates to them, with the introduction of Windows 10 bringing things to a head. The demand for our service came from our customers when we were contacted with a request for a virtualisation solution. We offered the service to North America and Australia, after which we implemented it in test use for ourselves for two years. In 2018, the solution was ready to be offered as a complete service package.
In virtualisation, the technology is free, being based on an open source code, and therefore licences and basic solutions do not cause additional costs to the customer. The platforms can also be freely edited. Of course, if technical support, automation or updates are required, these will bring some costs with them. However, we always realise virtualisation in a cost-efficient manner, while offering world-class enterprise-level solutions.
The customer gains the virtual environment as a service by outsourcing some of its information technology operations to us. In practice, this means that we will build and maintain the solution pursuant to an agreement. For a monthly charge, the customer will gain full maintenance and services.
If I say that the traditional Windows operating system may no longer exist in five years’ time, it will give you an idea of the speed of change in the information technology sector. It should also make you think whether having an information system that is dependent on individual devices or licences is the best solution for your company. Now may be the time to learn more about the benefits of virtualisation and consider possible changes to your IT systems.
Our virtualisation service offers numerous benefits to your company:
- It brings added efficiency and makes your information system more stable
- You do not have to tie your resources to hardware
- You will no longer require software licences or regular, cumbersome device and technology updates.
- Recovery from errors takes place more rapidly and you do not have to worry about the availability of spare parts as you are not dependent on a certain manufacturer.
- In the event of a cyberattack or some other information security threat, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your protection is up to scratch and the situation can be reverted back to normal in an agile manner.
- Our experts are available to help you with any issues and problems
This article was written by control systems engineer Janne Husu, electrical and control engineering. Janne has more than 35 years of IT experience under his belt and he has worked in the field of process automation globally for more than two decades. In his current job, he offers our customers sustainable solutions for the rapidly-changing modern world.
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