What Is Virtualization? What Is Virtualization Technology?
In This Article
Virtualization is a process that enables you to run virtual versions of computer systems in a layer that's abstracted from your hardware. Virtualization creates virtual instances of IT services that have traditionally been bound to hardware, which allows you to run multiple applications and operating systems on a single computer.
Virtualization is now a standard process within enterprise IT architecture. It drives cloud computing activity and enables you to purchase computing resources when you need them at almost any scale.
Virtualization works by using hypervisors to create an abstraction layer that separates physical resources from virtual environments. Hypervisors sit above an operating system or are installed directly onto servers to take physical resources and divide them up for use in virtual environments.
This process enables you to run hardware elements, such as memory, processors and storage, across multiple virtual machines (VMs). Each VM has an individual operating system and behaves independently from the user's hardware.
There are various types of virtualization technology, including the following approaches:
Application virtualization: This process enables users to run applications without directly installing them onto their operating system. This can be achieved through local application virtualization, application streaming or server-based virtualization.
Cloud virtualization: Cloud computing providers rely on virtualization to offer virtual data center, server and storage resources, usually in the form of three cloud virtualization models:
- Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): Cloud providers offer virtualized network, server, and storage resources that users can configure based on their specific needs.
- Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): Cloud providers offer virtualized cloud services, databases, and development tools that enable a user to build applications and services.
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS): Cloud providers offer software programs that customers can use directly in the cloud.
Data center virtualization: This virtualization option abstracts a data center's hardware into software, enabling an administrator to apply it to multiple virtual data centers. Clients can then access their infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) that runs on the same physical hardware. This offers a route into cloud computing. Organizations can create a data center environment without purchasing infrastructure hardware.
Data virtualization: Organizations increasingly store data in various file formats from multiple applications and locations, including the cloud, on-premises hardware and software systems. Data virtualization enables any application to access all that data regardless of the format, location and source. A data virtualization tool creates a software layer between programs that access data and the systems that store it, which helps to break down data silos.
Desktop virtualization: Desktop virtualization enables you to run multiple desktop operating systems concurrently, each of which has its own VM on your computer. Desktop virtualization comes in two main formats:
- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI): Runs multiple desktops on VMs on a central server then streams them to users' client devices. This enables users to access various operating systems on any device without installing them.
- Local desktop virtualization: A hypervisor is deployed on a local computer, which allows users to run multiple operating systems on their device.
GPU virtualization: Graphical processing units (GPUs) improve overall computing performance by managing heavy graphic and mathematical processing. GPU virtualization enables multiple VMs to use a GPU's processing power for high-intensity applications, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and video.
Network virtualization: Network virtualization enables an administrator to gain visibility and manage their network from a single console. It takes hardware elements, such as connections, routers and switches, and abstracts them onto software that runs on a hypervisor. The network admin can then control and modify these elements without touching the physical components, simplifying the network management process. Standard network virtualization formats include software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).
Server virtualization: Server virtualization allows multiple operating systems to run on one physical server as VMs. This offers greater efficiency, reduces costs, increases performance and offers higher availability.
Storage virtualization: This enables all storage devices on a network to be accessed and managed as one storage device. Storage virtualization combines all storage blocks into one shared pool, allowing them to be assigned to any VM connected to the network. This simplifies the provision of storage of VMs and maximizes the use of storage on the network.
Virtualization provides your organization with a wide range of benefits, including:
Improved resource efficiency: Before organizations could use virtualization technology, they had to dedicate a physical CPU and configure a physical server for every application. Server virtualization enables you to run multiple programs on a device without affecting reliability and ensuring maximum utilization of the physical hardware.
Easier workflow management: Using software-defined VMs instead of physical computers makes it easier to run and manage policies. Management workflows can now be automated to ensure VMs make the best use of computing power and storage space.
Minimized downtime: Software crashes and operating system failures can result in costly periods of downtime that affect user productivity. Virtualization allows admins to run multiple redundant VMs concurrently, enabling failover if a problem occurs and minimizing the risk of downtime.
Faster application provisioning: Provisioning VMs onto hardware is much faster than the time-consuming process of purchasing, installing and configuring hardware for every application. These VMs can also be automated and built into existing workflows using management software.
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