What Is Virtualization? Full Guide

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Virtualization has changed the way people use computers and technology, allowing them to maximize hardware and software resources. Although this concept has gained traction in recent years, it’s not a new idea. The concept was conceived by IBM back in the 1960s with a view of maximizing the use of mainframe computers. Today, virtualization is being applied everywhere, from offices to data centers.

In this guide, we discuss its benefits, the various types that exist and take a look at how it’s transforming industries. But first, let’s start by explaining what is virtualization

Defining Virtualization

In very basic terms, virtualization refers to the creation of virtual versions of computer resources like servers, operating systems, networks, and storage devices. It’s a technique that allows one physical server to run multiple virtual machines (VMs). 

Each virtual machine operates like an independent computer with its own operating system and applications. It runs within its own allocated resources including storage, processing power, and memory. Virtualization is like having several computers in one, all sharing the same hardware resources but running in a software-based environment. 

Virtualization supports efficient use of hardware resources, enabling businesses to run multiple virtual instances via a single computer. Through virtualizations, companies can switch between operating systems on a single server without having to reboot.  

How Does Virtualization Work? 

Virtualization is driven by two important concepts – virtual machines and hypervisors. 

Virtual Machines

Virtual machine simply refers to a software-based computer that operates via a physical computer but with separate computing resources and operating system. In virtualization, the physical machine is referred to as the host machine, while virtual machines that run on it are guest machines. Several virtual machines can be hosted in one physical machine. A hypervisor is used to abstract virtual machines from the computer hardware. 

Hypervisors

Hypervisor refers to the software component that is used to manage different virtual machines in a host computer. The software is installed in a physical machine to provide an intermediary between the underlying hardware or operating system and the virtual machines.  

Hypervisors are responsible for ensuring that every virtual machine in a physical machine is allocated resources. They also ensure that virtual machines don’t interfere with each other’s operations. There are two kinds of hypervisors in virtualization: 

  1. Bare-Metal Hypervisors 

Also referred to as Type 1 hypervisors, bare-metal hypervisors are programs. They are installed in the computer hardware to replace the operating system. Type 1 hypervisors perform better than operating systems and are common in enterprise applications. 

  1. Hosted Hypervisors

These are also referred to as Type 2 hypervisors. Unlike Type 1 hypervisors, hosted hypervisors are installed on operating systems to support end-user programming

Importance of Virtualization

Virtualization offers users the flexibility to interact with different hardware resources. Physical machines require space, electricity, and maintenance to run. Access to them is limited by network design and physical proximity. Virtualization eliminates these barriers by converting the functionalities of physical hardware into software. This allows users to manage, utilize, and maintain hardware infrastructure the way they do web applications. 

What Benefits Does Virtualization Offer?  

Virtualization serves as the foundation for modern-day computing. It offers a range of benefits to businesses including:

  1. Resource Efficiency

By supporting multiple virtual instances from one computer, virtualization enables companies to maximize available resources while cutting down on energy consumption and hardware costs. Virtualization also simplifies management of computer resources. Companies find it easier and more flexible to manage virtual machines than physical machines. With virtualization, tasks such as backup, provisioning, and migration can be automated to save effort and time.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness

Companies that adopt virtualization eliminate the need to buy separate machines or services for each task. This saves the business significant amounts of money that would otherwise be spent on hardware, space, and software. Additionally, virtual machines operate in different environments and adapt to varying situations. Companies can run Windows processes on Linux or Mac environments. This flexibility saves businesses significant time and resources.  

  1. Speedy Deployment

Virtual instances can be created and deployed much faster than physical machines, allowing businesses to fast track their development and testing processes. Physical machines require time to deploy because they have to be set up before development and testing processes can be initiated.

  1. Better Security

Virtualization enhances security by isolating virtual machines from the host system and from each other. If one virtual machine gets compromised, it does not affect the underlying system or other machines. This isolation means developers can create isolated virtual machines to test new software without affecting the production environment.

  1. Disaster Recovery

Virtualization offers companies disaster recovery benefits by allowing them to shift operations to backup virtual machines quickly in the event of a crash. This ensures continuity of business operations by reducing downtime.

What are the Various Types of Virtualizations?

There are various ways to create virtual environments. Below are the most common types of virtualizations:

Hardware Virtualization: Involves creation of multiple virtual machines on one physical machine. Each virtual machine runs on an operating system of its own. This type of virtualization is mostly used for server consolidation due to its strong ability to isolate virtual machines.

Software Virtualization: Involves virtualization of one operating system to run multiple applications in isolated environments. This type of virtualization is mostly used to run legacy software on personal computers.

Network Virtualization: This virtualization is used to abstract network resources like routers and switches to create virtual networks. It improves network management to support flexibility and scalability.

Storage Virtualization: Involves virtualization of storage devices to create a single storage pool. Storage virtualization improves utilization and management of storage resources by enabling features such as backups and snapshots.

Conclusion

Virtualization refers to the technology people use to create multiple virtual versions of servers, networks, and storage on a single physical machine. It allows you to abstract different operating systems and applications all from a single physical machine. 

Virtualization continues to transform the information technology landscape by optimizing resource utilization, reducing costs, and enhancing flexibility. 

As technology advances, the world of virtualization will continue to expand, making our computing experiences even more versatile and efficient. With its wide application, virtualization is set to drive efficiency and innovation in businesses across all industries.