A Brief Introduction to Virtualization and Its Benefits

Virtualization – sometimes referred to as server consolidation – is achieved by providing software applications with a logical view of a computer’s hardware as opposed to a physical view. In the modern form of virtualization, software is used to create “virtual machines” on the target computer. There are various virtualization software products that are currently available including VMWare, Parallels , Windows Virtual Server, Sun xVM, HyperVM, VirtualBox, Xen etc.
Virtualization is not exactly a new technology. Many have credited Sun Microsystems as the initiators of virtualization software since they created the Java virtual machine (JVM). Others claim that virtualization is descendent from disk partitioning, which is basically the process of dividing a computer’s disk space into several logical partitions in which different operating systems can be installed.
Either way you look at it, virtualization now affords the user many tangible and intangible benefits. As more new vendors enter the virtualization market, boundaries of what can be achieved with virtualization are being pushed further and further. The main benefits of virtualization are outlined below.

1. Cost Benefits
Using one virtual machine means you have used one less computer or server than you would have without virtualization. The cost benefit is thus two-fold: not having to buy extra machines, and not having to pay for the space taken up by those extra machines. The cost benefit accruing from saving space is most apparent to companies that use several server rooms for their servers.

2. Energy Efficiency
This advantage stems from the one above – fewer computers or servers means less energy consumption. Virtualization has thus become one of the biggest talking points whenever environmentally friendly computer technologies are discussed. It is no secret that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, such as those from computer use, contribute greatly to global warming. Therefore, by using virtual machines, you are doing your part in the fight against the depletion of the ozone layer.

3. Multiple Operating Systems on One Computer
Virtualization allows for the installation of several different operating systems on a single computer. The use of virtualization even enables you to install a Mac operating system on hardware that would normally not support it. This comes in handy for software developers who often have to test their software on different hardware-operating system combinations.

4. Easier Server Management
For a systems administrator, virtualization results in less hardware to worry about. The software administrator can thus concentrate on managing the software applications that are crucial for the organization. In extreme cases, different crucial applications may be installed in their own virtual machines to ensure lack of interference between them when an application is changed or updated.
Research has shown that about 70% of IT departments around the world have already taken up virtualization. Though most of the virtualization software is not available for free, the benefits that a company stands to reap from virtualization far outweigh the cost of purchasing such software. It is a worthy investment that not only saves you money, but also saves our world.