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You’ve heard the term “virtualization.” You’ve heard that it can save you money, improve performance and let seemingly incompatible systems work together. But for many companies, the transition from theoretical benefits to in-house application isn’t always so simple. Part of the problem is confusion — what exactly is virtualization, and how does it work? Let’s get back to basics.

What It Is (and Isn’t!)

Simply put, virtualization is the creation of virtual (rather than actual) computing resources. These resources could be anything from storage, networking, desktop infrastructure, applications or even operating systems. Virtualization requires hardware, such as a server, which has a fixed set of resources. These resources are then re-imagined as virtual instances that may be nearly identical to the physical host or almost unrecognizable. It’s possible, therefore, to create a virtual environment where multiple computers appear to be a single, large machine or one where a large resource appears as a host of smaller machines.

If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like cloud computing, you’re right. But there’s a difference — while every cloud is made up of some virtualized infrastructure, not all virtualization deployments are public or private clouds. True virtualization requires hardware abstraction; in the cloud, it’s possible to rely entirely on software.

How It Works

Virtualization isn’t free. To create virtual machines (VM) on physical hardware requires processing power, memory, storage and network bandwidth. The more VMs you create, the higher the cost, but there’s almost no limit to configuration. In other words, it’s possible to run an operating system not typically supported by your setup using virtualization, since all the OS sees are useable resources rather than hardware constraints.

To properly manage your virtual environment you require a hypervisor — an admin-level program that handles VM requests and portions out resources. Without a hypervisor, resource distribution and consumption become unmanageable, and you can become the victim of “virtual sprawl”: too many instances with no specific purpose.

Types of Virtualization

 There are multiple types of virtualization, including:

  • Access Virtualization: Allows any device to access any application by making them appear “familiar” to one another.
  • Application Virtualization: A type of software virtualization that lets apps run across multiple operating systems.
  • Network Virtualization: Gives devices a view of the network that differs from the physical view, for example allowing machines to “see” only the resources they can access.
  • Storage Virtualization: Lets multiple VMs all use the same storage hardware but makes it appear as though each machine has private access.

Making the Most of Virtualization

Managed properly, virtualization can help you make full use of hardware resources by eliminating unnecessary roadblocks such as OS limitations or device incompatibilities. Before spinning up VMs, however, it’s important to understand what virtualization is, what it can do, and what specific outcomes it can help you achieve.
ICC has experts ready to support your virtualization. Contact us today and discover the real benefits of going virtual.