As time goes on, our clubs are expected to have more and more of an online presence. This is especially true for those university organizations that are technology oriented. People expect us to have our own website, email, calendar and other services. Traditionally, having all these services can be costly and time consuming. However, using virtualization, many of these problems can be mitigated. In this paper we will discuss the problems faced by university organizations (thus giving us critereon for our solution), and walk through the best solution for virtualization. After reading this paper, you will fi the best solution for your specific organization.
You may not think it affects your organization, but increasingly it is expected of us to have digital infrastructures. Part of maintaining a professional organization or student organi- zation with credibility is having an online presence (websites, emails, calendars, etc). This faces us with many new problems that come with having a digital infrastructure: cost, time needed, complexity, and security.
Traditional digital infrastructures require organizations to have servers, networking capabil- ities, and public domain names. Servers can be made out of almost any computer; however, for it to be reliable for your users it should be a dedicated and powerful machine. This is usu- ally in the form of a server blade; which can cost anywhere between $380 and $45,751.95. Similar costs are found when buying networking equipment such as routers, switches, hubs, networking cable, etc. Then to top it all off you need a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) for people to fi your website and email. This cost is usually minimal: usually are around $20 or so. In the end, it all adds up and can be very costly.
Time Needed to Setup and Maintain a Traditional Digital Infrastructure
Not only does it cost money to buy equipment, it costs time. The fi thing that has to be done is determining the specifications of the server(s) and networking equipment you need. After your organization has determined this, someone needs to search the web for the servers and networking equipment that meets these specifications for the lowest price. Then, if your university’s student clubs are organized anything like Virginia Tech’s, your club needs to request the funds to do so and justify it.
Now, you have acquired the server and networking equipment; but, that isn’t the end of your time commitment. Next step is to set it all up; which takes, someone who knows what they are doing, a few days. The servers are all set up and networked; it is time to put them on the internet. Someone needs to buy a FQDN, and assign it to the IP addresses of your servers.
After all is said and done, the servers are up and running. However, this is only the beginning. As time goes on you will need to update the servers, fi errors, and change configurations based on your needs. As you can see, having a traditional digital infrastructure is very time consuming.
Complexity Maintaining a Traditional Digital Infrastructure
As stated in the above section, there is quite a bit of maintenance that needs to be done to servers and networking equipment: updating, debugging errors, configuring, etc. There are many diff t ways to go about doing these tasks; however, they are outside the scope of this paper. No matter the way to complete these tasks, you need to worry about the complexity of these methods. Most methods require someone who has worked in a command line interface (CLI). Otherwise, it is necessary to fi or build a graphical user interface (GUI) that everyone can understand. Making it simple to complete these tasks is important; the officers that take over after you need to be briefed on it. If it is not simple, they will probably not follow it. It will become broken, no one will use it, or even worse it could be hacked and used for malicious purposes. Simplicity is key when it comes to keeping things running smoothly.
Securing A Traditional Digital Infrastructure
The fi problem, but not the least important, is securing the digital infrastructure you have created. There are many people out there who would love to have the power of your server at their disposal. To keep them from gaining control of your systems it takes time, adds complexity, and may increase costs. Securing them requires someone with the time and mindset to keep up with current vulnerabilities, monitor the systems, keep them updated, and configure them. Therefore this needs to be someone who is either willing to learn, or knows what he/she is doing. This is a big and multifaceted area of the digital world, and cannot be delved into in this paper; but, it should never be taken lightly.
There is a better way to go about creating a digital infrastructure: virtualization. Virtu- alization allows you to use one server to create many virtual servers within it. All these servers are managed by what are called hypervisors. There are many companies that even provide virtualization in what is called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Amazon Web Ser- vices, Rackspace, SoftLayer, and DigitalOcean (to name a few). We will be excluding these from our virtualization solutions in this paper as we are focused on hosting our own digital infrastructures.
There are two types of hypervisors: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 hypervisors run directly on the hardware of the server; whereas, type 2 hypervisors run inside of an Operating System (OS). Type 1 hypervisors allow us to virtualize our services as if they were on their own physical servers and are largely more efficient than their type 2 counterparts. Type 2 hypervisors on the other hand, usually have well thought-out, and easy-to-use GUIs.
As part of our critereon we are looking to reduce cost, increase fly (decrease com- plexity), and increase security. This is achieved by using type 1 hypervisors which are both efficient in their usage of server resources, but also in their programming itself: fewer lines of code means less vulnerabilities. By using up less resources, we are able to provide more services (or better services) with fewer servers – thus lowering costs. Out of these type 1 hypervisors, we are looking for the cheapest ones. There are many projects via open source that provide free hypervisors. In addition, some companies have made versions of their en- terprise hypervisors free for people to use/try. This leaves us with a few options at this point: KVM, Xen, Citrix XenServer, VMWare ESXi, and Microsoft Hyper-V.
The next critereon was the time necessary to setup and maintain this digital infrastructure. Naturally by using virtualization we have reduced the number of physical servers to take care of. All of the above hypervisors have large wikis and support communities[4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. However, two of these communities VMWare’s and Microsoft’s aren’t as varied as those of the OpenSource community, and must be paid for to get quality customer support. Our second to last critereon was the complexity of the solution. From personal experience, all three of these solutions are very simple. However, not all three are very fl Citrix XenServer is OpenSource, but requires a host OS of Microsoft origins. This means one would have to have Windows installed on the server. Thus reducing the amount of fl y one has with the configuration of the server. The other two, KVM and Xen, are both OpenSource and Linux based: allowing for the most customizability. Xen used to be the best type 1 hypervisor in use, and is still used by major companies such as AWS. However, recently Linux has been moving further and further away from Xen. From my experience, it has been relatively diffi to get an up-to-date version of Xen running on many Linux distros that are supported. This is not a problem, as KVM is absolutely comparable, and was recently added into the Linux kernel. Thus, KVM can be used on any base Linux distro and can even run Windows OSes, Linux, and with some tweaking Mac OSX.
Finally, security is our last critereon. As discussed, the fewer lines of code, ostensibly the more secure the hypervisor is. Looking at Xen and KVM, both have extremely small amounts of base code; however, KVM, being part of the linux kernel, is smaller. It is also more integrated into the most secure part of the Linux OS, and is thus considered more secure. In addition, both are OpenSource, allowing them to be reviewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Thus security is inherent with these two hypervisors.
University Clubs are requried increasingly to have digital infrastructures for websites, email, and calendars. However, creating and maintaining traditional infrastructures is costly, time consuming, diffi and can be insecure. Virtualization has become the best way for com- panies and clubs to provide a digital infrastructure in the most efficient and cost effective manor. More specifically for clubs, KVM seems to be the best solution, and the easiest to implement on a server.
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