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Virtual Data Center Definition & Meaning

A virtual data center pools resources to give organizations all the hardware and software infrastructure they need to run their computing tasks. It's a concept that can go by other names such as software-defined data centers and next-generation data centers. While a traditional data center is confined to one conglomeration of servers and hardware, a virtual data center can run in multiple environments, including physical and virtual servers, networks, storage, software, and across multiple data centers and the cloud. The virtual data center is more flexible and scalable because it's not limited to one location that keeps expanding and consuming more resources.

The benefits of virtual data centers are two-fold: They can save money through greater utilization of existing hardware and software, and they can also improve availability by getting processing power and data where it's needed.

Often, virtual data centers use virtual machines. Virtual machines rely on a hypervisor, which rests either directly on a piece of hardware or atop the computer operating system. The virtual machines then host their own makeshift operating systems, all on one server. This allows much more computing and data management to take place than a traditional server.

Data center virtualization gives businesses the opportunity to connect their on-premises hardware to a virtual network or a cloud. Data can be transferred much more smoothly between environments and is more quickly available for users who need it.

Virtual data center products

A number of vendors offer data center virtualization software and products, among them:

  • VMware
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Red Hat
  • NEC
  • CDW

Compliance and security

Because virtualization spreads data processing and applications across multiple environments, the data must be protected by stronger security. Data is flexible and agile when in a hybrid or virtual environment, which means it can also slip through cracks or be accessed by unauthorized users more easily if not properly protected. Data centers often have to comply with stringent security measures, meeting at least one law or regulation if not multiple. PCI DSS, for example, requires certain standards from companies that use customers' financial data. HIPAA protects customers in medical companies and requires medical organizations to comply with those security measures.

Multi-factor authentication, virtual private networks, and endpoint security are just a few ways that organizations should manage their data as it passes between employees. These measures help protect data as it travels across more and more devices and networks. Large organizations also benefit from an overall security provider for their virtual data center - one that secures each level of the data center, whether physical or cloud. A few of the most popular data center security providers are:

  • McAfee
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Trend Micro
  • VMWare
  • Symantec









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