What is Virtualization?

Virtualization photo
Photo by frapposelli

Virtualization is a software technology that transforms hardware resources, of an x86-based computer, including the CPU, RAM, hard disk, and network controllers, to create multiple virtual machines, each running its own operating system and applications on the same computer at the same time, independent of each other.

  • How does it work?
    • Inserting a thin layer of software directly on the computer’s hardware or O/S, which transparently monitors and allocates resources among multiple virtual machines.
  • Why Use Virtualization?
    • Server Consolidation, better resource utilization
    • IT Hardware Cost Reduction, reducing number of servers and IT hardware, real estate, power, etc.
    • Improved Operational Efficiency and staff productivity..
    • Improved Business Continuity, secure backup and recovery of virtual environments.
  • Advantages of Virtual Machines:
    • Compatibility with all standard x86 operating systems.
    • Isolation: Virtual Machines behave as if they are separate physical machines.
    • Encapsulation: VMs encapsulates hardware resources, O/S and applications inside a portable software package.
    • Hardware independence: VMs are fully independent of their underlying physical hardware, and can be configured with different virtual components.
  • From Virtual Machines to Virtual Infrastructures:
    • A Virtual Machine represents the physical resources of a single computer, while a Virtual Infrastructure represents the total IT environment, including complete computer networks, as a unified shared resource.
  • Virtualization Examples:
    • Fortune 100 companies
    • Dominos Pizza, adopted virtualization since 2004, for the benefits of consolidation, cost savings, enhanced security and disaster recovery. Created 80 virtual environments on 17 servers.
    • School Computer Labs.
    • Personal Use, computer enthusiasts, students, programmers, etc.
    • Testing Software on different platforms and environments.
    • Virtual Hosting.
  • Cons:
    • Licensing issues
    • Application vendor support for VM

Virtualization is a rapidly expanding technology. More and more businesses, government, schools, even individuals, are beginning to realize the benefits and value of virtualization. mainly the ability to consolidate multiple workloads on one physical server system, which in turn offers lower hardware acquisition costs as well as improved data center performance and efficiency. Processor manufacturers such as Intel are also creating processor enhancements to support Virtualization, through what is called IntelVT, which gives virtualization software the ability to take advantage of offloading workload to the system hardware, and improves performance.