How Virtualization Works
Before the advent of virtualization, operating systems interfaced directly with server hardware. The different user streams shared a single set of resources such as hard drive, HD controller, CPU, etc. This computing architecture operates similarly to a series circuit, allowing single use activity at any given time. This situation caused data transmission bottlenecks and slow computing.
With virtualization, a ‘hypervisor’ (software) connects to the hardware and allows multiple operating systems to access the hardware simultaneously. This creates separate virtual computing systems from a single set of hardware resources. Consequently, virtualization reduces latency and increases overall efficiency and utilization of computing power for a given physical server.
We can describe hypervisors in two different categories, native and hosted.
Native hypervisors run directly on host computers hardware. They control the host computer’s hardware resources and manage guest operating systems. Cloud service providers often use native hypervisors to manage large data centers.
A hosted hypervisor runs as a distinct second layer, not directly connected to the host hardware. The operating system runs as a third layer above the hardware. Hosted hypervisors allow users to run a virtual machine from an external device. They coordinate request for resources like CPU, memory, disk access, etc.
The end user cannot determine which type of hypervisor they communicate with, because their device communicates directly with the hypervisor. The guest has no direct communication with the host system beyond the hypervisor.
Virtualized Computing System Components
We can apply virtualization techniques to a variety of computing system components, including network virtualization, cloud virtualization, server virtualization, storage virtualization, and application virtualization. Use of hypervisor technology allows virtualization of each of these computing system components.
Cloud service providers use network virtualization, application virtualization, server virtualization, storage virtualization, and application virtualization to provide customized computing environments for customers without purchasing and maintaining dedicated resources for each customer and to reduce infrastructure investment. Individual businesses utilize these aspects of virtualization for similar purposes.
Primary Benefits of Virtualization
Virtualization increases use of resources and improves computing efficiency in a variety of ways.
Maximizes Use of Common Resources – Through use of hypervisors, virtualization divides resources to create distinct virtual machines from a common set of resources.
Reduces Capital Investment Costs – Maximizing resource usage reduces the amount of computing resources needed to serve a given customer base, resulting in less capital investment on a per usage basis. This provides economic benefit to the service provider, and ultimately benefits the customer as well due to increased competition amongst the service providers.
Reduces Operating Expense – Reduction in Infrastructure = Reduction of Operating Expense; Implementing virtualization allows greater throughput and maximizes efficiency of computing infrastructure, therefore also reduces associated operational and maintenance costs. Virtualization allows centralization of resources (e.g. infrastructure and IT staff), which also reduces management and maintenance expense.
Scalability – Virtualization offers scalability at a reduced price. You can leverage the services you need, when you need them, without paying for unused computing power when not needed.
Increases Computing Speed – Virtualization eliminates system choke points inherent to outdated operating environments. We can compare virtualized computing to old style computing similarly to how we compare single circuit systems vs. parallel circuit systems. Do you remember the old single series string of Christmas tree lights? When one bulb went out, the circuit was interrupted and power was lost to the entire string. When parallel circuit Christmas tree lights came to market, we no longer experienced this problem. When one light went out, the problem was isolated to that one component. The remainder of the system retained full operating capacity. Virtualization works in much the same way. When one component of the system is occupied or experiences a problem, the remainder of the system generally remains available. In addition, in that circumstance, virtualization can assign new resources to automatically (temporarily) replace the lost function.
Improves Data Management Efficiency – With virtualization, companies can centralize data to one location, fully accessible by all authorized endpoints. This streamlines data management operations.
Improves Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity – Virtualization improves Disaster Recovery efficiency, because of inherent data transfer efficiencies. Additionally, virtualization provides automated access to a range of resources in real time, which improves business continuity when problems arise.
Is Virtualization Right For You?
If your business is not already enjoying the benefits of virtualization, you should consider how it can improve your computing efficiency, thus boost profits. CIS (Custom Information Services) can help you determine if virtualization is right for you.