Virtualization 101: What is virtualization?

What are the advantages of virtualization?

The installation of x86-based virtual machines (VMs) has doubled every year since 2001, and this rate of unprecedented growth is set to explode even further.

According to Gartner, more VMs will be deployed in 2011 than in 2001 through to 2009 combined.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is the process of decoupling layers of IT functions so that the configurations of the layers become more independent of each other. As a result, virtualization masks the specific nature of IT resources from their users. Virtualization can occur between hardware and software — for example, a virtual machine (VM) — or between different layers of software, such as application virtualization and virtual private networks (VPNs).

Phase One

Gartner refers to three phases of virtualization. According to Gartner analyst, Phillip Dawson, most of the initial interest in virtualization technologies has centred on increasing resource utilisation, especially through server or workload consolidation.

While important, Dawson says consolidation represents only the first level of value that virtualization delivers.

“Virtualization is essentially a packaging technology that can be used in data centres and on the desktop to make software components more portable,” he says.

“VMs can move more easily between hardware platforms, and applications can move between similar OSs. “This consolidation phase supports energy management and related cost savings, and it also fuels he potential migration from racks to new server fabrics or blade deployments.”

Phase Two

Phase two leads to increased infrastructure agility both inside and outside the data centre. Dawson says the focus on portability leads to improved service-level agreements (SLAs), based on more rapid provisioning, greater scalability, and high availability and disaster recovery.

He says virtualization is also used to redefine boundaries between IT components, platforms and operational processes, leading to changes in the way the components are managed, secured and delivered across all computing platforms, from smartphones and desktops to servers and related storage.

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