What Is Virtualisation?


Image by: Idaho National Laboratory

The pace of technological advancements these days can mean that those who do not have an ear to the ground can miss out on developments, often ones that would make their professional or personal lives a whole lot easier!

The current technological buzzword, and fastest growing market, is virtualisation. Haven’t heard of it? Have heard of it, but have just nodded along so as not to look like a technological caveman who is still enchanted by touch screens?

Well, don’t worry. Take a deep breath; continue reading and you will have caught up in no time.

What is Virtualisation? 
The concept of virtualisation has existed for quite a while, but the beginnings of its practical incarnation dates back to 2003, when Intel began working on something called Vanderpool.

Fast forward to the present day and virtualisation is everywhere. If you use an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, then you are using just one of the practical applications of virtualisation, while the word itself has passed into marketing and business jargon very easily indeed.

So what is it? Well at its most abstractedly technical, virtualisation is the latest step in the process of separating software further and further from hardware.

In practical terms though, virtualisation serves as a way of lowering infrastructure costs, by better optimising your software’s use of the existing hardware.

Operating System (OS) Virtualisation
In the traditional way of operating, your hardware and your software sit on top of each other in a stack with your hardware on the bottom, your OS in the middle and you application software on top. The OS acts to provide the software applications with the parts of the hardware they need, while shielding them from the whole complexity of the hardware itself.

In a virtualisation scenario, a new piece of software (the virtual machine monitor) slides in between the OS and the hardware, which effectively allows you to run multiple OS systems from the same bit of hardware.

The practical applications of OS virtualisation are:

  • Server consolidation
  • Load balancing and insuring there is no service interruption
  • Performance isolation
  • Increased security
  • Software development

Application Virtualisation
This kind of virtualisation works on the top of OS virtualisation and allows the computer resources to be distributed between different applications without altering the OS and the existing settings of your computer. This differs from usual, because the application is not installing its settings directly on to OS.

The only potential problem is that application virtualisation can throw all of your old time based performance metrics out of whack, which will most likely infuriate anyone in charge of application performance monitoring.

See, it wasn’t that scary was it? Now you don’t have to remain silent in technical meetings, and you can bore your friends and relatives at dinner parties. Ah, life on the crest of the technological wave….

Featured images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source

James Duvalis a lover of all things IT and loves to blog about them as well as road testing the latest in retrospective software. When he’s not working or blogging, James likes to ride around the country on his motorbike listening to old school rock and roll.

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