Virtualization has existed for a long time, but it became a real buzz in 2005 when VMware released the free VMware player for virtual machines, thus enabling a mass adoption of virtualization technology. According to Wikipedia, virtualization refers to:
“the creation of a virtual version of something, such as hardware platform, operating system, storage device or network resources.”
When people talk about virtualization they usually think of server virtualization which is one of its three key areas. The other two are network virtualization and storage virtualization.
Server virtualization means dividing one physical server into several virtual ones. These virtual servers are also known as virtual machines and each of them acts as an individual physical resource. This means that they can run different operating systems and applications sharing resources from a single physical computer. Also, a crash of one machine doesn’t affect the rest as they are completely separated from each other. Running of multiple operating systems is possible because of hypervisor which is a linking software program that manages them.
Network virtualization involves structuring of available bandwidth into a more manageable virtual network. Network virtualization can be either external or internal. The external network virtualization refers to combining or subdividing local networks or parts of a network into a single virtual unit. The internal network virtualization means assigning particular network functionality to software containers. Common types of network virtualization are virtual private network (VPN) and virtual local area network (VLAN).
Storage virtualization groups storage devices so they would function better. Similarly to server virtualization, storage resources are pooled into a single entity, creating an artificial storage environment. The users don’t know where exactly their files are kept as physical devices where the pieces of data are stored are numerous.
Why is virtualization important?
Virtualization strategies bring multiple benefits to contemporary businesses. Though each of the elements described above has its particular purpose, general benefits of virtualization are primarily related to reduction of overall costs. Creation of artificial units that function equally good or better than a physical unit enables simpler and more productive use of applications without spending much on hardware. Proper virtualization strategies result in both cost reduction and productivity increase in several ways:
- By eliminating the need for physical servers it significantly decreases capital costs;
- Reduces downtime which translates into an increased productivity;
- Improves application performance by allocating resources to the applications that need them;
- Affordable and easy to set up, which might especially be significant for smaller businesses or startups that have a very limited initial capital;
- Simple deployment of applications making it easy for non-technology experts to use them;
- Excellent disaster recovery solutions and a good recovery time;
- Enables easier collaboration especially if a company operates from multiple locations;