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Virtualization Software Explained

Updated on July 1, 2014

Virtualization And Virtualization Software

Virtualization and virtualization software can be one of the most confusing IT terms thrown around among the technological community nowadays. It’s a hot topic right now, but it’s often misunderstood. The reason why it’s so often misunderstood is because the term is so broad. It can encompass a lot of things which makes pinning down exactly what it is and what it can do very difficult.

Virtualization is the creation of a virtual version of something. This in itself isn’t very difficult to understand. It’s the process of creating this virtual version and the types of virtual versions that can be complicated. Generally virtualization involves a server, storage device, network resources or an operating system. It also involves breaking down the applications, also known as decoupling the resources needed to run the application. These resources can include network access, the underlying hardware host, the processor, memory, storage access or the operating system.

What makes virtualization so popular is that it can allow multiple resources to be accessed from a single server. This means there’s less maintenance requires, a lower amount of energy is used, and fewer servers are necessary.

The Storage

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Virtualization Vs. Cloud Computing

On the surface, the process of virtualization sounds a lot like cloud computing. And in a way the two are similar. They’re so similar that the two terms are often substituted for each other. But this is incorrect. There are significant differences between the two. To break it down as simply as possible, cloud computing is a service. Virtualization is part of a physical infrastructure and generally requires software to run.

Virtualization is more expensive initially. There are bigger upfront costs with it in order to get all the necessary software and set up the system. However, once you have all the equipment, you don’t need to spend any more money besides periodic upgrades. This can save money in the long run. Cloud computing provides the convenience of never having to set up software or a computer system to make the cloud work. Users typically pay a subscription fee which is based on the amount of files they load up and access, and overall how much they use the system. If a business grows, or need to access the cloud increases, your fees could increase over time. This increase can be significant and could eat up a large portion of your financial resources and cut into your profits.

Another big difference between virtualization and cloud computing is that the cloud can provide more private and secure storage and delivery of information. The online publication ZDNet, which dedicates itself to providing 24/7 news coverage on topics and trends of interest to IT professionals says this about the difference between cloud computing and virtualization: “Every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square. Every cloud is composed of virtual infrastructure but not every virtual infrastructure is part of a cloud.”

The Categories Of Virtualization

As mentioned earlier, virtualization is a term that covers a broad range of IT services. Here’s a brief look at some of these categories.

<> Storage virtualization: This allows the consolidation of data in a central location. The benefit of this is that it makes it easier for multiple users to access the same information reducing the need for severs. It can also reduce the chance of duplicated data.

<> Hardware virtualization: A method that allows multiple operating systems to run on a single server. It can save money in electricity costs and equipment costs because fewer servers are needed to power the workforce.

<> Desktop virtualization: Every computer has preferences, applications and files. With desktop virtualization, this information can be hosted in another location not on the actual local machine. It can provide extra security and make it easier for multiple users to access the same information.

<> Software virtualization: This has more to do with individual computers and rarely affects entire networks.

More About Virtualization Software

This is a system that allows a guest operating system to run. Virtualization software allows one computer to make and manage several virtual environments. It’s sometimes used to simulate a computer system to allow other users access to the information stored there.

Generally the best programs require a financial investment. Although if you’re an individual, it may possible to get free virtualization software. This type of software is can be used, copied, modified, redistributed and studied by anyone who gets a copy of it. Free virtualization software is also sometimes called open source software. This is because the source code to the software is available to anyone who receives a copy of the software.

To access and use free virtualization software, you need the same things you would need for the paid-for software. You’ll need a physical host. Your choice of physical host will depend on the type of software you want to use. Generally you’ll be running additional operating system in addition to the hardware on your system. So you’re going to need additional resources to handle the higher work load and file sizes. Depending on the system you’re using, you may need to get additional RAM. CPU power might need to be increased. Enough disk space and disk performance level are also important.

VirtualBox

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesgibbard/2856391611/in/photostream/lightbox/
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesgibbard/2856391611/in/photostream/lightbox/ | Source

Free Virtualization Software

Here are a few freebies to consider.

Virtualbox: A cross-platform technology with an advanced network stack and unlimited snapshots. Installation is simple and the program is easy to use even if the disk management is more complicated that it needs to be. It comes with a portable edition, too, and allows for the installation of Guest Additions that make sharing information easier. For a free program, it has a lot of features. It doesn’t have a screenshot feature. This program is good for beginners and works well for intermediate users as well.

Xen: This software has been compared to UNIX-like operating systems and has access to numerous third-party management tools. The software is more complicated to use and is more suitable for advanced users or professionals. It allows for complete control and flexibility and generally has good performance, according to users. Xen is challenging to set up making it a more difficult virtualization software to use.

Oracle VM

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