Through the past few years there has been a lot of talk about virtualization and how its revolutionizing IT. This is great and all, but many people still dont understand exactly what virtualization is, and why its important. Microsoft has also put virtualization front and center for its latest server operating system ( Windows Server 2012) as the main variation between the four different operating systems comes in virtualization rights. More on windows server can be found here.
Aside from Microsoft, the heavy-weights of virtualization are VMware, and Citrix. Both of these companies are almost entirely based on virtualization and applying the technology to develop products that help IT specialists and corporations alike, throughout the world. Virtualization has definitely become a vital part of todays IT infrastructure, and we are going to explain how it works, and why its needed.
The term virtualization is defined as :
to create a virtual version of (a computer, operating system, data storage device, etc.), which is not itself an independent device but both works and appears to the user as a single, physical entity
This definition can accurately sum up what virtualization is, its a process running on an existing computer that acts and is viewed/perceieved by other devices as an independent device. For example, operating systems can run in a virtual setting, where the operating system believes and acts as it is running on its own hardware, even though it is running with an an existing operating system.
Virtualization is used to run multiple operating systems, and run applications throughout a network. When a company relies on certain applications, but their needed throughout multiple computer, the application can be run virtually off of a network, but he computer will behave as if it is being run locally on the machine itself.
The secret to virtualization lies in a special software called hypervisor. Hypervisor software is the link between virtual programs and the existing hardware. This software manages a systems resources such as memory and processor, and allocates these resources to be used between the operating system, and virtualized program.
Virtualization doesn’t only apply to virtualized programs, but can also be applied to virtualized devices. An example of this is how multiple storage devices can be linked together through virtualization, and appear as a single storage device. This means that you can manage multiple devices and their resources more efficiently.
Virtualization doesn’t stop there though, as you will also hear about, network virtualization, desktop virtualization, and Application virtualization. Network virtualization is sued to spilt apart the bandwidth in a network into ‘channels’. These channels can then independently assigned to specific devices such as desktops and servers. Desktop virtualization allows a centralized server to distribute multiple desktops across a network. The server can then also manage these desktops remotely- and access can be gained from anywhere withen said network. This is particularly beneficial to corporations that have to roll out multiple computing environment, but also need to manage how these environments are used and patched. Essentially users will have a full-featured computing experience bu the IT department can easily manage all of these computers remotely. Application virtualization strips the link between applications and the hardware, putting them nto a container that can be moved across the computer without interfering with existing programs and systems.
Virtualization may only have began to hit the mainstream in the past decade, but the technology was being used since the early 1960s. IBM developed this technology to boost the usability of very large and costly systems that could be run virtually instead of having to use another system altogether. This technology may have fallen under the radar for those decades in between, but it is one of today’s most trending technologies, especially for medium to large scale businesses.
Now, all of these facts are great and all, but why does it matter? Well there many benefits to virtualization, but the four main reasons are, virtualization allows you to save money, save energy, save time, and reduce headaches ( Due to IT management, of course) , thats a lot of savings to be had. Large companies tend to run a single application on their servers so if one app crashes it dosent bring down their entire infrastructure. Without virtualization this technique can cost thousands, if-not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Businesses also spend a lot of money powering their servers and desktops, with virtualization multiple servers can run on a single machine- you not only save money, but also save energy, making the whole world a better place. Virtualization also saves a lot of time for your IT department as they don’t have to manage actual servers and devices. Along with saving time, virtualization also reduces management headaches as its alot easier to patch and control virtual machines. If problems arise individual devices can be isolated to determine the cause.
Virtualization is in no way a mainstream technology. It is intended to be used by professionals for professionals, and businesses alike. With that the technology is starting to push its way into the consumer marketplace with products such as Onlive, and Gaikai. Both of these services allow gamers to stream popular games across many platforms. You can run some of the most graphically extensive games on your iPad, or even netbook. The actual game is being processed and powered on servers hosted by Onlive but through virtualization gamers can stream the content onto their devices. This is very cool, from a technological stand-point as well as for the future of gaming. Gaikai was recently bought by Sony and many (gaming) industry experts are speculating that the company will integrate the service with their future gaming platform ( Playstation 4, maybe?). Moving away form gaming, Onlive is also responsible for the popular CloudOn app for the iPad, witch allows you to stream Microsoft’s office suite onto your tablet.
Virtualization is an awesome technology and the future is looking very bright. We are continuing to see new applications for this tech from providers such as VMWare and Citrix, all of them hoping to push the boundaries a little making room for even bigger things.
You can expect to hear a lot more on visualization from Synergy in the near future, especially coinciding with major releases from providers mentioned previously.