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Explaining virtualization with golf clubs

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I was playing golf with my father when we had a conversation that lead to me trying to explain what virtualization is all about. I’m embellishing the details a little, but it went something like this:

Dad: “So, what exactly do you do again? Email right?”

Me: “[laugh] Dad, that was several years ago. I specialize in virtualization.”

Dad: “Virtualization? What is that?”

Me: “Have you ever been in a data center and seen the racks of servers?”

Dad: “Not really, but I think I know what you mean.”

Me: “OK. Well a traditional data center usually dedicates physical server hardware for one application or service. Sometimes more than one per server, but the result is a lot of servers in racks that take up a lot of floor space, use a lot a power, and requires a lot of cooling.”

Dad: “Yeah?”

Me: “Yeah. Each of those servers have their own operating system – like Windows.”

Dad: “Like the Windows on my laptop?”

Me: “Yes. Not exactly the same Windows, but yes.”

Dad: “OK.”

Me: “There is a specialized operating system now that can be installed on server hardware that will let a company get rid of all the extra racks of hardware. So, instead of having racks of servers you only need one rack of physical servers. But, you can still run all the other applications and services in that one rack.”

Dad: “So you install all the applications on the same servers?”

Me: “No, I actually move all of the existing Windows operating systems and run them on the same servers virtually.”

Dad: “you can install Windows more than once on a server?”

Me: “No. I can only install Windows once on a server, but the special operating system on the physical server hardware can create multiple virtual servers with virtual hardware where windows is installed separately.”

Dad: “Huh?”

Me: “Yeah, so your company’s IT Dept still has all the same servers on the network, but way less hardware is needed. That means way less floor space, less power, less cooling.”

Dad: “That’s going green. My company is all about going green.”

Me: “Yes, it is going green.”

Dad: “You should tell people about that.”

Me: “Oh, we do.”

Dad: “Cool.”

Me: “So, you understand?”

Dad: “Sure, you made the email fancier.”

Me: [speechless]

Dad: “No, I get it. if I could virtualize my golf clubs in my bag I could just carry one club.”

Me: “why yes … that’s the concept.”

Dad: “And I could switch between what club I needed with a dial a something.”

Me: “Yes! Yes, the dial is pretty important actually. Do want to hear about it?”

Dad: “Not really. Did you see where my ball went?”

Good thing I did not have to stretch the virtualization comparison to explain how to handle when a golfer gets mad and throws his golf bag in the lake.

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