Although virtualization, as a form of technology has existed since the 1960s, only recently with the advent of cloud computing has it become a staple in the vocabulary of those involved in the IT industry. By offloading hardware requirements and utility costs, it can rapidly transform a company’s infrastructure and improve its efficiency by itself. Virtualization in cloud computing allows you to run multiple applications and operating systems on the same server, thereby providing for efficient resource utilization and reducing costs.
What Is Virtualization?
Virtualization is the process of creating a virtual environment on an existing server to run your desired program, without interfering with any of the other services provided by the server or host platform to other users. The Virtual environment can be a single instance or a combination of many such as operating systems, Network or Application servers, computing environments, storage devices and other such environments. The concept of virtualization will be easily understood after going through the different types if virtualization later in this article.
What Are The Benefits Of Virtualization?
Numerous benefits are provided by virtualization which includes, reduction in costs, efficient utilization of resources, better accessibility and minimization of risk among others.
Benefits for Companies
- Removal of special hardware and utility requirements
- Effective management of resources
- Increased employee productivity as a result of better accessibility
- Reduced risk of data loss, as data is backed up across multiple storage locations
Benefits for Data Centers
- Maximization of server capabilities, thereby reducing maintenance and operation costs
- Smaller footprint as a result of lower hardware, energy and manpower requirements
How Does Virtualization Work?
Access to the virtual machine and the host machine or server is facilitated by a software known as Hypervisor. Hypervisor acts as a link between the hardware and the virtual environment and distributes the hardware resources such as CPU usage, memory allotment between the different virtual environments.
What types of virtualization are there?
Virtualization can take many forms depending on the type of application use and hardware utilization. The main types are listed below:
Hardware virtualization also knows as hardware-assisted virtualization or server virtualization runs on the concept that an individual independent segment of hardware or a physical server, may be made up of multiple smaller hardware segments or servers, essentially consolidating multiple physical servers into virtual servers that run on a single primary physical server. Each small server can host a virtual machine, but the entire cluster of servers is treated as a single device by any process requesting the hardware. The hardware resource allotment is done by the hypervisor. The main advantages include increased processing power as a result of maximized hardware utilization and application uptime.
- Full Virtualization – Guest software does not require any modifications since the underlying hardware is fully simulated.
- Emulation Virtualization – The virtual machine simulates the hardware and becomes independent of it. The guest operating system does not require any modifications.
- Paravirtualization – the hardware is not simulated and the guest software run their own isolated domains.
Software Virtualization involves the creation an operation of multiple virtual environments on the host machine. It creates a computer system complete with hardware that lets the guest operating system to run. For example, it lets you run Android OS on a host machine natively using a Microsoft Windows OS, utilizing the same hardware as the host machine does.
- Operating System Virtualization – hosting multiple OS on the native OS
- Application Virtualization – hosting individual applications in a virtual environment separate from the native OS
- Service Virtualization – hosting specific processes and services related to a particular application
Physical memory across different servers is aggregated into a single virtualized memory pool. It provides the benefit of an enlarged contiguous working memory. You may already be familiar with this, as some OS such as Microsoft Windows OS allows a portion of your storage disk to serve as an extension of your RAM.
- Application-level control – Applications access the memory pool directly
- Operating system level control – Access to the memory pool is provided through an operating system
Multiple physical storage devices are grouped together, which then appear as a single storage device. This provides various advantages such as homogenization of storage across storage devices of multiple capacity and speeds, reduced downtime, load balancing and better optimization of performance and speed. Partitioning your hard drive into multiple partitions is an example of this virtualization.
- Block Virtualization – Multiple storage devices are consolidated into one
- File Virtualization – Storage system grants access to files that are stored over multiple hosts
It lets you easily manipulate data, as the data is presented as an abstract layer completely independent of data structure and database systems. Decreases data input and formatting errors.
In network virtualization, multiple sub-networks can be created on the same physical network, which may or may not is authorized to communicate with each other. This enables restriction of file movement across networks and enhances security, and allows better monitoring and identification of data usage which lets the network administrator’s scale up the network appropriately. It also increases reliability as a disruption in one network doesn’t affect other networks, and the diagnosis is easier.
- Internal network: Enables a single system to function like a network
- External network: Consolidation of multiple networks into a single one, or segregation of a single network into multiple ones
This is perhaps the most common form of virtualization for any regular IT employee. The user’s desktop is stored on a remote server, allowing the user to access his desktop from any device or location. Employees can work conveniently from the comfort of their home. Since the data transfer takes place over secure protocols, any risk of data theft is minimized.
Which Technology to use?
Virtualization is possible through a wide range of Technologies which are available to use and are also OpenSource. We prefer using XEN or KVM since they provide the best virtualization experience and performance.
Virtualization lets you easily outsource your hardware and eliminate any energy costs associated with its operation. Although it may not work for everyone, however the efficiency, security and cost advantages are considerable for you to consider employing it as part of your operations. But whatever type of virtualization you may need, always look for service providers that provide straightforward tools to manage your resources and monitor usage, so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time managing your virtual servers and virtualization can indeed be efficient for you.