What is Virtualization?

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Virtualization allows you to create a virtual source of resources. A virtual version is a completely separate entity from the host it has been derived from and possesses all the properties of its host. In the computing world, virtualization refers to the creation of a virtual version of storage devices, hardware platforms, or other computing resources.

Virtualization is a vast concept. There are different types of virtualization based on the functions they provide and the resources that are being virtualized. In this article, we will discuss everything important related to virtualization.

What is Virtualization?

In simple terms, virtualization means using a computer system at its full capacity by allowing it to create different virtual machines on a single set of hardware. Let’s understand virtualization with an example. Suppose you have a web server, a mail server, and another server for general applications.

Now each of these servers (computers) is only working at a partial capacity. It means that the resources are not properly utilized and are being wasted. However, the wastage of computing resources can be eliminated with the help of virtualization.

With virtualization, you can divide the resources of a mail server or web server and allocate it to a virtual machine for general applications. It will allow different users with different operating systems to use the applications while your hardware and software resources are being used more efficiently, at the full potential.

Virtualization allows you to create multiple virtual machines using a single computer. These machines run on one hardware but act as separate computers with their own operating system. Let’s dive a little into the virtualization world and take a look at its history.

History of Virtualization

If you look back at the history of virtualization, you will find that the technology wasn’t that developed by a single company. It was a coordinated effort of several companies, including IBM, Bell Labs, and General Electric.

Virtualization can be traced back to the 1960s when IBM was manufacturing premium quality computers. Users were not able to keep up with the evolving technology. We are talking about the past century, so you understand that it was very different from what it is today, where a new phone, PC, or software is launched almost every day.

The computers were old, multitasking was not popular, and each task required batch processing if there were multiple tasks at hand. MIT was ready to grant a fund of $2 million, but IBM felt that there isn’t much demand for such computers, and GE grabbed the opportunity. However, when Bell Labs also demanded such a computer, IBM realized its mistake and started working on a time-sharing system, which came out to be the CP-40 mainframe. This mainframe was later developed into CP-67.

Things got changed with time and MultiCS was developed, which later became UNIX. If we talk about present-day virtualization, it was first initiated by Insignia Solutions in 1987 when they launched SoftPC, which enables DOS applications to run on UNIX PCs. Now, several other competitors were popping up in the market. And till now, Virtualization is changing the way people perform numerous tasks on their computers.

How Virtualization Works?

The total capacity of the hardware remains underutilized since you can only use 30% of the total efficiency. By using virtualization software, the underlying hardware resources such as memory, storage, operating system, input/output, network, etc., are separated from the hardware hence you can use 100% capacity of the same. However, a separate layer is created where these resources are divided into separate virtual machines. The virtualization software is known as a hypervisor, which will be discussed later in the article.

This is how virtualization works:

  1. A hypervisor is used to draw the physical resources apart from the hardware.
  2. Then these resources are divided among various virtual machines or guest machines.

However, it lets the users have the same experience as using a physical system. Most users don’t even know that they are using a virtual machine. Alongside, it supports scaling, i.e., the virtual machines can send requests for additional resources in case of need.

What is a Hypervisor?

A hypervisor is commonly known as something that creates and manages virtual machines. It can be software, firmware, or hardware that separates the host machine’s resources to create virtual machines. Hypervisors make it possible to allocate resources of a single machine to different guest machines. Hypervisors are popular because they allow efficient use of computing resources by creating virtual machines.

Types of Hypervisor

There are two types of hypervisors – bare-metal hypervisor and hosted hypervisor. The bare-metal hypervisor is installed directly on your hardware and thus, is faster and efficient as it can access the hardware directly. A hosted hypervisor is installed on the operating system like any other software or computer application.

Types of Virtualization

Virtualization has evolved over time, and presently, there are different types of virtualization technologies available that are discussed as follows:

1. Network Virtualization

It refers to the virtualization of a network’s hardware components like a router, switches, connections, load balancers, etc., in order to use those as software that allow modification and controlling the network without requiring to access the physical components. Your network gets virtualized by the hypervisor and it becomes possible to manage the network efficiently.

There are two types of network virtualization- Internal network and External network. Software-defined networking means the control plane is virtualized, and the hypervisor virtualizes the physical components that perform different functions.

2. Desktop Virtualization

Desktop virtualization allows running multiple desktop operating systems at the same time. Doing so allows the system administrators to perform tasks at numerous virtual desktops all at once as they run on a VM on their own hardware.

Local desktop virtualization allows running multiple OS on a single device, and the user can easily switch between different OS. The virtual desktop infrastructure allows a user to access multiple VMs using a central server.

3. Storage Virtualization

There are several storage spaces in a network, and you need to access these storage spaces for getting different information. Storage virtualization allows clubbing all the physical storage devices into a single storage pool. It allows users to access all the data stored in different storage devices from a single location. Thus, it becomes easier to manage multiple storage devices and utilize the storage spaces efficiently.

4. Server Virtualization

A server performs complex tasks for the clients and it can cater to several clients’ needs at the same time. It requires huge storage, advanced software, and other computing resources to handle client requests efficiently. With server virtualization, all these components are partitioned and run on VMs that are independent of the underlying hardware and also improves the performance of applications.

5. Data Virtualization

Do not confuse it with storage virtualization. Data virtualization is a different concept where a software layer is created between the client and the server that sends data in response to clients’ requests. It allows access to the data irrespective of its format, source, or location. The client query is answered with the data residing on multiple data locations.

Apart from these, there are several other types of virtualization like application virtualization, CPU Virtualization—data center virtualization, cloud virtualization, etc.

Advantages Of Virtualization

Virtualization technology benefits you in the following ways:

  • Easy Recovery – With the help of virtual machine snapshots, it is easy to back up the data in case of an error.
  • Reduced Hardware Costs – Virtualization reduces the cost of hardware resources because you can create multiple VMs using a single set of hardware.
  • Low Maintenance Cost – The lesser the hardware resources, the lesser the time and money required to maintain them.
  • Easy Testing Environment – Snapshots make application testing easier as the testing team can always go back to the previous state of a machine using a VM screenshot and start the testing process again.
  • Designated Servers – When a server is assigned for a particular task, the task can be executed more efficiently.
  • Energy Saving – The reduced hardware resources brings down the energy requirements. It is good for the environment as more hardware resources mean more consumption of energy and also more heat dissipation.
  • No Hardware Or Software Dependency – A Virtual Machine is separate from the hardware and software installed on a physical system. Virtualization is not hardware-dependent.

Disadvantages of Virtualization

Virtualization also has its downsides that are as follows::

  • To make the best out of virtualization, organizations may need to purchase new and powerful hardware to run the virtualization software.
  • It requires trained IT staff and experts, which may cost extra. IT staff must also be well-equipped with the knowledge to face the challenges associated with virtualization technology.
  • There are security issues with VMs.

Difference Between Containerized Solution and Virtualization Technology

Linux containers are very popular these days, and virtualization is often misunderstood as containers. However, the aim of both technologies is the same, i.e. to create isolated environments for applications. However, both technologies are considerably different. A virtual machine is a separate computer with its operating system, while a container is just an isolated process. A container runs a single application while a virtual machine can run multiple applications as it can access a varying amount of resources.


If you are looking forward to cost-saving and efficient utilization of your computing resources, virtualization is the technology that you need to consider. It is affordable and offers several advantages, especially when it comes to server management and application development. We hope that this article has provided you with answers to most of your questions regarding virtualization.

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