What is a Virtual Machine? How Does it Work?

By | June 15, 2022
What is a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines are increasingly seen as the legacy technology due to their flexibility and cost-effective solutions to the industry. Today, most of the technologies have started their concert from the virtual machine but with the different and advanced approach of doing things better. Some of the technologies like Docker, containerization, microservices, and many more, have gained their existence due to virtual machines.

The below article will discuss virtual machines, advantages, disadvantages, why VM is still essential, and its management techniques.

What is a Virtual machine?

Virtual machines are software that allows you to run programs or applications without relying on the physical machine. Using the Virtual machine instance, you can efficiently run more than one guest machine on the physical host computer. Each virtual machine has its operating system and various functions isolated from other virtual machines running on the same physical host system.

You can run virtual machines on computer servers, desktop systems, or any embedded platform available. While running multiple virtual machines on the same physical host, they will share the resources like CPU, network bandwidth, and memory of the underlying system. VM allows you to run multi-system applications simultaneously, at the same host, without creating any overhead.

The concept of virtual machines has been in the market since the early computing days, the 1960s. But, VM was defined in 1970 as an efficiently isolated environment for the real computer machine. Virtual machines have gained popularity over the last 15 years as companies are now adopting the concept of server virtualization, utilizing the computing power of physical servers, reducing the requirement for physical server and server space. You can run applications having different OS requirements on a single physical host without installing different hardware for each application.

Benefits of using a virtual machine

However, we have gained much advancement in technology, and Virtual machines are least considered. Still, VMs have their reasons to stand out from the competition in a positive way. Below are some reasons that you should keep your virtual machine.

Benefits of using a virtual machineSource- https://www.dnsstuff.com/what-is-vm-virtual-machine

  • It helps in enhancing operational flexibility. One of the most significant achievements of virtualization is its flexibility. It allows you to operate multiple displays and systems (Linux, Windows) from the same console. You are allowed to switch among various applications without worrying about their operating systems. With a virtual machine, you can experience using multiple computers simultaneously, having different system requirements. Also, these systems are isolated from each other, adding additional security layers to operate efficiently.
  • Using a virtual machine will help you in saving overhead costs while purchasing hardware for the business. This expense does not stop here and will continue with hardware maintenance, power, and licensing. But you still require power usage and software licensing. But you can minimize the resource consumption with virtual machines as you do not have to maintain and replace the hardware frequently.
  • Virtual machines help in managing different operating units centrally, which will increase the system’s efficiency and improve your business output. The virtual machine offers you to consolidate all the IT requirement and management processes into one console, making them easier to operate than managing multiple physical systems. You can manage all applications through a single dashboard, which is an easier way to track your applications, system, and operating units.
  • Every business tends to have a future plan for expanding their business to the next level. Using a virtual machine will help them scale their business requirement over time. Virtualization makes this scalability easier to manage and operate. A virtual machine allows you to add or remove applications without having physical overhead and extra budget for hardware resources.
  • The virtual machine ensures disaster recovery by creating and maintaining regular copies of their actions. These copies help you to retrace your activities on the system. As there is a negligible hardware overhead, your server will pose a lower risk for system failure.

Challenges of using Virtual machine

The concept of virtualization failed due to the lousy storage, network configs, and server. The virtual environment is more complex and requires a new approach for managing systems. Below are a few challenges that you may face using virtual machines.

  • Resource distribution: The concept of virtualization creates a partition of the system that can result in two different ways- some might work adequately, and some might not get enough resources to operate correctly. Resources distribution can be considered one of the drawbacks of virtualization, which can be fixed if we work on the capacity planning with your service provider.
  • VM Sprawl: It refers to the unchecked growth of the virtual machine within a virtual environment. If the cause is not known to the virtualization admin, it may cripple a healthy environment. It can cause problems because the root cause is mostly hidden until it creates a resource shortage situation, creates overheads, and leads the virtual machine to crash. Admin should take care of the virtual machine management to check what resources are being consumed by creating a management plan for each application phase.
  • Backward compatibility: If you are using the legacy system, it may cause problems if you are using the new virtualized software programs in terms of compatibility. Solving such compatibility issues is time-consuming and challenging. You should try updating your system regularly and ensuring that everything will function the same way it is expected to work.
  • Performance monitoring: Virtual machines do not check for the performance of the system like mainframes and hardware drives do. You may use tools like VMmark for setting the benchmark for measuring the performance on various virtual networks and check the resource usage.
  • Backup: Using virtual machines, you cannot back up the data as there is no hard drive to store the data. It makes it challenging to access backups whenever you update your software. You can use software programs like Windows server backup tools to create regular backups in a single place for easy tracking and accessing the data.
  • Security: Virtual machines are vulnerable if users do not maintain their security with strong passwords like practices.
  • Redundancy: The purpose of a virtual machine is to reside various machines on a single server. But it may lead to redundancy for the virtual machine whenever they are spread across multiple server clusters. It will require more effort to distribute the application over the network.

Virtual machine management technique

However, virtual machines effectively save time and money but come with part of the challenges mentioned above. Hosting multiple virtual machines per hard drive may create a heavier workload. If you do not have a proper management plan, the virtual machine will consume your storage resources, slow down the system’s performance, and eat up lots of space with VM sprawl. Below are some methods that ensure the proper running of the virtual machine.

  • Virtual machines are updating to accommodate new virtual machines and their advanced applications. If you do not check the configuration changes, it will create downtime and a time-consuming VM sprawl situation.

Changing configs can create bottlenecks, and sometimes it is difficult to identify these bottlenecks due to unaware config changes, creating slow system performance. You can avoid such a situation with the proper VM management plan, allowing you to get in-depth visibility of the config changes and templates. This makes it easy to troubleshoot the cause of downtime and make the changes accordingly.

  • The consistent expansion of the virtual machines will create new service dependencies over another virtual machine having the same protection group. You need to make sure that you are not adding any faulty application as it may create malfunction among its dependencies and making it difficult to troubleshoot the situation.

Well, VM management software helps you to check the VM dependencies with graphs and maps. With dependency management software, you will get a clear picture of various services running within the virtual machine. It will provide you an interface to have in-depth visibility to your VMs, application groups, and more.


There is no doubt, virtual machines have gained popularity in their time and are still increasing with time. Today, many technologies are working on the concept of virtualization and making it more advanced with the changing business needs. It is said that virtual machines have their time, but now it is necessary to make room for other advanced concepts.

In the above article, we have mentioned its benefits and challenges of using a virtual machine. Once you go through this, you will get to know what impact virtualization has on our upcoming technologies.

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