What Is Virtualization?
What Is Virtualization?

The Future is Virtualization

hand-holding-virtual-worldToday’s world is moving digital. In order to keep up, it is vital to take advantage of virtualization. But, what is virtualization?

Virtualization is simply the practice of running virtual operating systems (guests) inside a single physical computer (host).  In other words, from within the host, you can create and use many different guest operating systems.  Their functions and operations are kept separate from physical resources and applications through sandboxing.

What is Virtualization Used For?

Virtualization is generally used to reduce hardware dependence and to streamline system administration.  Instead of purchasing and maintaining a piece of hardware for every operating system or application in an environment, virtualization delivers a much smaller physical footprint.  Multiple operating systems each running a business critical function, can all operate from within one host operating system on a single piece of hardware.

Through the use of a hypervisor, all the virtual machines are accessible through a single graphical user interface (GUI).  The hypervisor is the platform on which virtual machines can be created, edited and deleted.  System resources can be assigned to each machine as desired.

Virtual machines can be easily created.  Installation is similar to installing an OS on a physical system.  Once VMs are created, they can be easily duplicated, deleted and backed up.  The ability to create snapshots can be helpful when testing configuration changes and software compatibility.  The snapshot allows the user to establish a baseline configuration that can be easily restored between different tests.  Further, human error can largely be avoiding provided that a snapshot is created before any changes are attempted.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a technical system whereby desktop computer operating systems are accessed from a centralized server. Users can log into virtual desktops, running on a local server or a server in the cloud. They connect using computers, tablets, mobile devices and thin clients.  The virtual operating systems come in two different types:

  • Persistent Virtual Desktop – Persistent virtual desktops are much like traditional operating systems. Users log into their own personal operating systems for each session and their files and settings are there waiting for them.
  • Non-persistent Virtual Desktop – Non-persistent virtual desktops are accessed from a pool of identical operating system images.  Each time a user logs in, they get the same standard image, as if it were never used.  Non-persistent builds are great for public access computers in libraries and other places.

Advantages of VDI

Virtual desktops create an environment that is easy to back up, configure and keep up-to-date. VDI offers a cost-effective solution to managing the need for multiple machines in an environment. Virtual desktop system resources come from the host machine.  Therefore, minimal processing power is required to access a virtual desktop.  In most cases, old and underpowered hardware can run virtual desktops with ease.

Additionally, changes are made to virtual desktops in one place, as opposed to making changes to a number of physical computers. For example, software updates for the accounting department can be installed to the single Accounting Department desktop image. The next time anyone from the accounting department logs into their virtual desktop, their software will be updated.

Disadvantages of VDI

The primary disadvantage of VDI is storage management.  Persistant virtual desktops require a lot of storage space to allow users to save files.  Since files are not stored on local computers file server space becomes very important.  Storage cost and administrative overhead can quickly eat into hardware savings.

Another disadvantage of virtual desktops is that server hardware and management costs tend to increase at very large scales.

What is Virtual Server Infrastructure?

Virtual server infrastructure is essentially the same as VDI, but with virtual server operating systems instead of desktops. Many different, and incompatible, operating systems can be run from a single physical server.  For example, a single server can run Linux, masOS and Windows servers on a single server.  These server operating systems can run different applications and processes independent of each other.  As with VID, these virtual servers can be on local hardware or in the cloud.

Advantages and disadvantages of virtual server systems are similar to those of VDI.

Virtualization and Hyper-convergence

Hyper-convergence is an IT framework which combines storage, computing, and networking into a single system. In highly virtualized environments running many onsite virtual servers, Hyper-convergence simplifies administration, combining everything into a single graphical user interface. Data center complexity is reduced while scalability increases. This is extremely useful when managing a large amount of virtual machines. Hyper-convergence can be further advanced by including software-defined-storage capabilities. This provides a single data storage pool to all your virtual machines, while providing many redundancies that protect your data and productivity.

Conclusion

Virtualization is nothing new.  However, it is still a cornerstone of a powerful and cost-effective data center.  Employing virtualization technology can afford a strategic advantage for forward-thinking businesses and IT managers.  Simple administration and reduced hardware dependence usually far outweigh any negative aspects of implementation.

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