I’m becoming increasing interested in a concept relatively new to the IT world, virtualization entails taking multiple guests (separate OS installed as if were alone on the machine) and running them on one or two extremely powerful machines. With this concept what used to take 10 or 12 physically separate servers can now be combined into one on two physical servers. This not only reduces costs of hardware but also power consumption, cooling needs, space constraints, and physical maintenance of a small server farm into either a couple of servers.
Recently when I attended the GAETC, a conference for school system technology folks such as myself, I found many interesting presentations involving how to setup, and maintain an army of servers with just one machine and virtualization. They focused mainly on one product from Vmware called ESX server which seemed very interesting but expensive. Fortunatly Vmware also offers a few free products namely VM player and VM server the later of which is the most useful. It also seems the prices might not be a barrier for small time IT folks very much longer according to this article.
There are also other options for the price conscious such as me. I recently download but have yet to try an offering from Xen an open source project that also offers enterprise solutions and support. From what I read the product looks similar to Vmware ESX server in that it runs a striped down linux kernel on the host machine instead of being a standalone package such as Vmware server.
Update: I failed to mention another option for virtualization called Parallels although not free it was the only option for the mac until recently. This article states that Vmware has a new beta verison of their virtualization software called Fusion.