What Is Virtualisation? (Definition, Types And Uses)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 18 December 2022

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Virtualisation software simulates hardware functions to create a virtual system. Using this technique, IT organisations can run more than one operating system, several virtual systems and various applications on a single server. This leads to greater scalability and efficiency. In this article, we define what is virtualisation, understand its importance, explore its various types and look at some tips for selecting the best virtualisation solution.

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What Is Virtualisation?

The answer to "What is virtualisation?" is that it is the process of creating a virtual resource, such as a server, desktop, operating system, storage or network. It helps manage workloads by making traditional computing more scalable. Users can run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single computer through virtualisation. A computing system accomplishes this through the use of an abstraction layer between the hardware and the software.

Using this method, organisations can create several virtual machines from a single physical computer or server. By sharing resources of a single host machine, each virtual machine can run different operating systems or applications while interacting independently. Virtualisation makes it possible to combine multiple resources from a single computer or server, resulting in increased scalability and workloads with fewer servers. This helps in reducing power consumption, maintenance costs and infrastructure costs.

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What Are The Benefits Of Virtualisation?

It is vital that companies and businesses stay informed about the latest IT developments in the modern world. This helps them operate more efficiently and provides the structure and setup to meet growing customer expectations. Virtualisation has become an essential part of enterprise IT and provides the following benefits:

  • There is a wide range of software programmes available to users, regardless of the operating system.

  • The allocation of resources can be more flexible with virtualisation.

  • In comparison to physical machines, virtualisation software involves less cost and also requires fewer resources to run.

  • It helps optimise resource utilisation of existing computing components.

  • Utilising virtual machines increases performance and uptime.

  • It allows the addition of virtual servers to store replicated backups quickly and easily.

  • At the hardware level, virtualisation allows users to isolate programmes from other processes to enhance security.

  • Virtualisation ensures highly reliable systems with no single point of failure by automatically monitoring and switching to backup virtual machines during outages.

  • Having multiple instances of the same virtual machine allows for efficient scaling, which helps maintain growth even during heavy load periods.

  • The reduction of hardware requirements by using virtualisation minimises the carbon footprint by reducing power consumption.

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How Does Virtualisation Work?

A virtual machine separates an application, an operating system or data storage from the underlying hardware or software. It is possible to create multiple virtual machines (VMs) by emulating the functions and actions of the underlying hardware or software by using a program known as a hypervisor. The role of hypervisors in virtualisation is crucial because they are in charge of allocating the physical resources required by multiple virtual machines. Here is a step-by-step explanation of the virtualisation process:

  • Virtual machines use hypervisors to separate the physical resources from the underlying physical hardware. These could be input/output (I/0), network traffic or memory.

  • The hypervisor then assigns resources from the physical to the virtual environment based on the requirements.

  • In the next step, the end-user interacts with and runs operations on the virtual machines, which act as single data files that are easily transferable and storable across different computers.

  • When an application or a user requests extra resources from the physical environment, the hypervisor sends the request to the physical system and also creates a cache of the changes.

  • Hypervisor software manages virtual machines by allocating computing resources as necessary, which reduces the amount of processing that power companies require to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

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Example Of Virtualisation

It may be necessary for a company to run multiple machines, each designed for a specific task. For example, they might run the database, the web server, host file transfer protocol (FTP) servers, manage emails and other essential tasks. Purchasing multiple machines may prove costly and require additional maintenance and operation costs.

The IT team often decides to divide one server into many virtual machines to save costs and increase efficiency. These VMs can support a variety of functionalities with just one physical server. The process saves time and it is much easier and faster to add new machines as requirements change.

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Types Of Virtualisation

There are several types of virtualisation to choose from depending on the organisation's needs. Among the most popular methods are:

  • Network virtualisation: Using virtualisation software, network administrators can move virtual machines from one domain to another without reconfiguring the network. Networks become more dynamic, agile and efficient with this approach.

  • Storage virtualisation: In storage virtualisation, multiple network storage devices are all grouped, so they appear to be one single storage device. Storage virtualisation reduces the time and effort involved in managing data and storage by providing easy backup, archiving and recovery.

  • Data virtualisation: It is possible to query data across many systems using data virtualisation, which reduces costs and eliminates the need for copying and replicating data. By using the latest information from the source, the analytics become more accurate and up-to-date.

  • Session virtualisation: It involves the use of centralised systems for processing and hosting user workloads and applications. This allows users to access their applications on multiple terminals.

  • Desktop virtualisation: Through desktop virtualisation, users can access their desktops from any connected device without having to set up a workstation. This allows for greater user mobility, portability and easier software installation, updates and patch management.

  • Server virtualisation: By changing the identity number and processors of the central server, users can create multiple virtual servers. The virtual servers can each run their own operating systems independently.

  • Application virtualisation: The use of application virtualisation allows for remote access to an application from a server. It allows users to run multiple applications at the same time, even when they are incompatible.

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Tips On Choosing A Virtualisation Solution

Before choosing a virtualisation solution, it is important to consider compatibility, workload and work style. Here are some tips for selecting the right virtualisation solution:

Business needs

Consider the benefits of implementing a virtualisation solution by making a list of the possible advantages. Some factors to consider are:

  • Complexity: Test the solution's ability to be deployed and managed easily. Take note of its operation, maintenance and troubleshooting capabilities.

  • Cost: Assess whether moving your applications to a virtualised environment can reduce your business' costs. Estimate savings and expenses by considering storage, maintenance and administration costs.

  • Ecosystem: Ensure that it supports the majority of the guest operating systems. Verify that it supports enterprise applications and technologies.

  • Efficiency: Evaluate whether virtualisation can improve the efficiency of your team. Reducing downtime, allowing for remote access to applications and improving security are all important aspects to consider.

  • Performance: Check to see if it delivers high performance for complex applications. Establish benchmarks to evaluate its performance.

  • Licensing: Some applications may have special copyrights. It is critical to verify that you have the legal right to move your applications into a virtual environment.

  • Support: Check the policies of each application vendor to see if a virtualised environment supports the applications you use.

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Types of hypervisor

Evaluation of technical concerns at an early stage of the process is essential. There are two primary approaches to virtualisation:

  • Type 1 Hypervisor: A Type 1 hypervisor interacts directly with the physical hardware of the underlying computer, including the CPU, memory and physical storage. Direct access to hardware makes Type 1 hypervisors highly efficient and secure, since there is nothing in between them and the CPU.

  • Type 2 Hypervisor: They are suitable for users with multiple operating systems on their personal computers. Type 2 hypervisors allow you to run an alternative guest operating system alongside the one running on the host system, which enables great productivity for users.

Resource requirements

Ensure that your current applications are compatible with virtualisation methods. It may be necessary to use a different type of virtualisation for applications running on a Windows server than for applications that operate on a physical computer. Determine what resources are required to transfer your applications to a virtualised environment by identifying the systems your applications run on.

Hardware compatibility

Virtualising platforms can have hardware compatibility issues and poor performance. Typically, hosted hypervisors can support a range of hardware types, while bare-bones hypervisors are usually more limited in terms of hardware. It is important to verify that your platform supports your existing hardware before repurposing it.

Ease of system management

Easy management refers to the rapid deployment of new services, such as platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). It also refers to the rapidity and efficiency in the deployment of new applications. Checking the compatibility of these applications is also essential to ensure smooth functionality.

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Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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