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Understanding virtualization (virtual machines)

VMWare and concept around it can be discussed at length. However in this piece of article I would just try to give the basic idea about it. VMware can be loosely defined as a suite of software products which is based on the concept of virtualization. Many of you might be familiar with the term, given the wide spread drive we are seeing in terms of cloud computing. And since virtualization is an integral part of cloud computing so the claim to fame is understandable. But before going further into VMware let me briefly define what is meant by virtualization.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is a proven software technology that is rapidly transforming the IT landscape and fundamentally changing the way that people compute. Today’s powerful x86 computer hardware was designed to run a single operating system and a single application. This leaves most machines vastly underutilized.

Simply put virtualization lets you run multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine, sharing the resources of that single computer across multiple environments. Different virtual machines can run different operating systems and multiple applications on the same physical computer. While others are leaping aboard the virtualization bandwagon now, VMware is the market leader in virtualization.

How does virtualization work?

  • The VMware virtualization platform is built on a business-ready architecture.
  • Use software such as VMware vSphere and VMware ESXi (a free download) to transform or “virtualize” the hardware resources of an x86-based computer—including the CPU, RAM, hard disk and network controller—to create a fully functional virtual machine that can run its own operating system and applications just like a “real” computer.
  • Each virtual machine contains a complete system, eliminating potential conflicts.
  • VMware virtualization works by inserting a thin layer of software directly on the computer hardware or on a host operating system.
  • This contains a virtual machine monitor or “hypervisor” that allocates hardware resources dynamically and transparently.
  • Multiple operating systems run concurrently on a single physical computer and share hardware resources with each other.
  • By encapsulating an entire machine, including CPU, memory, operating system, and network devices, a virtual machine is completely compatible with all standard x86 operating systems, applications, and device drivers.
  • You can safely run several operating systems and applications at the same time on a single computer, with each having access to the resources it needs when it needs them.

What are the benefits of virtualization?

  1. Virtualizing your IT infrastructure lets you reduce IT costs. Fewer servers and related IT hardware means reduced real estate and reduced power and cooling requirements. Better management tools let you improve your server to admin ratio so personnel requirements are reduced as well.
  2. It helps you in increasing the efficiency, utilization, and flexibility of your existing assets. Helps to eliminate planned downtime and recover immediately from unplanned issues.
  3. Around the world, companies of every size benefit from VMware virtualization.
  4. Gain operational flexibility: Respond to market changes with dynamic resource management, faster server provisioning and improved desktop and application deployment. And in this ever changing market place it is of paramount importance to be able to change quickly.
  5. Improves desktop manageability and security

So virtualization would require virtual machines and related infrastructure. Now what is a virtual machine?

A virtual machine is a tightly isolated software container that can run its own operating systems and applications as if it were a physical computer. A virtual machine behaves exactly like a physical computer and contains it own virtual (ie, software-based) CPU, RAM hard disk and network interface card (NIC). The adjacent image shows the VMware virtual machine.

An operating system can’t tell the difference between a virtual machine and a physical machine, nor can applications or other computers on a network. Even the virtual machine thinks it is a “real” computer. Nevertheless, a virtual machine is composed entirely of software and contains no hardware components whatsoever. As a result, virtual machines offer a number of distinct advantages over physical hardware.

VMware virtual machines possess four key characteristics that benefit the user:

  1. Compatibility: Virtual machines are compatible with all standard x86 computers
  2. Isolation: Virtual machines are isolated from each other as if physically separated
  3. Encapsulation: Virtual machines encapsulate a complete computing environment
  4. Hardware independence: Virtual machines run independently of underlying hardware

Virtual machines are the building blocks of the larger virtual infrastructure. So the next logical question is: what is virtual infrastructure?

  • A virtual machine lets you share the resources of a single physical computer across multiple virtual machines for maximum efficiency.
  • Resources are shared across multiple virtual machines and applications.
  • Business needs are the driving force behind dynamically mapping the physical resources of your infrastructure to applications—even as those needs evolve and change.
  • Aggregate the x86 servers along with network and storage into a unified pool of IT resources that can be utilized by the applications when and where they’re needed.
  • This resource optimization drives greater flexibility in the organization and results in lower capital and operational costs.

A virtual infrastructure consists of the following components:

  1. Bare-metal hypervisors to enable full virtualization of each x86 computer.
  2. Virtual infrastructure services such as resource management and consolidated backup to optimize available resources among virtual machines
  3. Automation solutions that provide special capabilities to optimize a particular IT process such as provisioning or disaster recovery.

So now what is VMware?

VMware vSphere is the industry’s first cloud operating system, that virtualizes servers, storage and networking, allowing multiple unmodified operating systems and their applications to run independently in virtual machines while sharing physical resources.

VMWare Inc is the company which have this whole lot of products i.e. the virtualization software. The company was founded in 1998 and is based in Palo Alto, California. VMware have desktop software, server software and other products which are based on the concepts mentioned in the earlier parts of the article. To know more about them visit the following sites:

Virtualizing your IT infrastructure lets you reduce IT costs while increasing the efficiency, utilization, and flexibility of your existing assets. Around the world, companies of every size benefit from VMware virtualization. Thousands of organizations—including all of the Fortune 100—use VMware virtualization solutions. See how virtualizing 100% of your IT infrastructure will benefit your organization.

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