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Virtualization and Cloud Computing – Are They Synonymous or Antonymous?

Updated on April 1, 2015

It's an era of booming technology where cloud computing has created a strong image in the business market. According to the Society of Information Management, the utility of cloud computing increased up to 200% in two years and that of virtualization beat 50% of all the server workloads, according to Gartner. In general, it's termed as a roof comprising of wide range of multiple platforms, systems and services.

At first glance, you might think that virtualization and cloud computing are synonymous terms. But there's a vast difference between them, many people are still as confused as in the words bear and beer. Cloud computing is related to hosting and delivery methods used to provide software, platform and infrastructure services to clients on remote basis over the internet. While virtualization is actually creation of an IT resource logically and doesn't exists physically. Now the question that may strike your mind is whether to choose virtualization or cloud computing?

These two technologies are interchangeable and the difference would affect your business decisions significantly. Here is a guide explaining the tech differences between virtualization and cloud computing –

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization in general is a software known as 'hypervisor' that divides physical infrastructures to create multiple virtual infrastructure resources such as – network components, computing environments or applications from that single physical infrastructure. These resources can be accessed via virtual machines (VMs) which can produce virtual resources with just push of a button (or two). There are three types of virtualizations – hardware, software and desktop. Hardware virtualization is similar to platform virtualization that happens with the creation of a virtual machine which acts as a real computer or operating system. Software virtualization enables different versions of an operating system to coexist and run on the same physical machine, offering the ability to run applications in different environments without the requirement of investing in additional hardware. Desktop virtualization enables creation and storage of client's desktop on a server that can be accessed by the client on a remote level over a network.

Advantages of Virtualization –

One of the benefits of virtualization is that it helps to cut IT costs within the businesses. In addition, it also improves the flexibility and efficiency of the hardware that is already available without big capital expenditure. It enables you to run multiple operating systems and applications on the same server and at the same time that helps in maximizing your resources in one simple step. If you are worried about disaster recovery, virtualization is a great tool as it makes everything right from servers to workstations, completely independent of physical hardware. This means there wouldn't be any data loss even if the hardware fails, instead you will simply need to replace the hardware as the virtual layer will still be there.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing in simple terms is utilizing the computing resources over the internet. In cloud computing, all applications and software are loaded on remote machines and servers and these are further geographically distributed across several dedicated servers. Cloud is actually delivering Computing as a Service rather than calling it a product where shared data and applications are provided to devices as a metered service over the internet. It is built on top of a virtualized infrastructure, comprising of compute, storage and network components. Service models that represent cloud computing are IaaS, SaaS and PaaS.

Advantages of Cloud Computing –

When it comes to advantages of cloud computing, it is characterized by scalability, agility, automation and fast on demand services.

The Differences between Virtualization and Cloud Computing –

  • In virtualization, a single physical machine is divided into multiple virtual machines with each virtual machine operating as its own environment. While in cloud computing, businesses are permitted to store and access applications and data on virtual server.
  • Virtualization helps to cut down on hardware and operating costs due to the location of multiple servers on a single machine. Cloud can be operated without virtualization but it requires more time and efforts.
  • Also, in virtualization location of virtual machines in the cluster(s) doesn't matter as the vm instances can exist on any/every server within the cluster.
  • With virtualization, workload can be distributed and balanced successfully, especially, when the workload varies greatly or is unpredictable. But in cloud computing you need to ask the cloud web hosting provider to increase the capacity to manage the workload and after the activity comes to normal you can ask the provider to reduce the requirement.
  • Virtualization is operated in local environment while cloud computing is done in a non-local situation.

In summary, both virtualization and cloud computing have their own advantages. Yes, one point can't be missed out that they both can work together and enable utilization of most of your IT services. Scalability of cloud can be increased, if cloud computing can remotely interact with the data stored on physical servers through virtualization. There are several businesses that start to virtualize their infrastructures, so that they can adopt cloud computing in future. Ultimately, while selecting any option, check on your needs and requirements from every corner and then go for it.


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