Virtualization: advantages, disadvantages and defining features

Virtualization helps make IT more flexible, agile and scalable, while also making IT easier to manage and less expensive to own.

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Virtualization is standard practice in enterprise IT today, as its broad applicability not only helps reduce vendor lockdown, but also forms the foundation of cloud computing. The growing popularity of virtualization over the years can be attributed to the fact that it allows companies to partition their servers and run legacy applications on more than one type or version of operating system. But what is virtualization?

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is the creation of a simulated computing environment as opposed to a physical environment. It refers to technology in which applications, guest operating systems or data storage are abstracted from the actual underlying software or hardware. Virtualization allows users to build effective IT services from resources traditionally tied to hardware.

Virtualization allows organizations to partition one physical computer into many virtual machines. This allows organizations to run different operating systems, applications, and virtual systems on one server. As a result, organizations enjoy improved performance, greater resource availability, greater workload mobility, and automated operations. The various types of virtualization include network, storage, data, server, application, and desktop virtualization.

Benefits

An advantage of using a virtualized environment is that disaster recovery is easier. In such an environment, virtual machine backup and recovery is made possible by consistent snapshots to provide up-to-date data. Virtualization makes it easy to move instances between physical servers.

Virtualization also reduces costs and saves physical resources. With virtualization, fewer hardware servers are required in an enterprise or data center, as it allows users to create many instances of the operating system while running on a single server. This results in lower costs of purchasing, installing, managing and maintaining large quantities of hardware. Virtualization also helps reduce the risk of physical servers overheating and improve energy savings.

SEE: Virtualization Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

In a virtual environment, testing becomes less complicated. There is no need to stop and restart the tests from the beginning in the event of a major error. It’s easy to revert to a previous snapshot and continue with the test.

Virtualization also leads to faster backups. Virtual servers and virtual machines can be backed up. To ensure that the data is up to date, snapshots are taken automatically throughout the day. Plus, it’s easy to migrate virtual machines between them and effectively redeploy them.

Migrating to the cloud is made easy for businesses with virtualization. Virtual machines play a role in enabling companies to adopt a cloud-based culture. They can be deployed by a data center to be part of a cloud-based infrastructure.

Ultimately, staff productivity is increased, as having fewer physical resources to manage and maintain means less time is allocated to these tasks. Virtualization also reduces demands on servers and performs tasks in virtual environments much faster than they would on physical servers.

Disadvantages

Despite all the benefits of virtualization, upfront costs could prove to be an obstacle. The initial investment in virtualization software and hardware could be expensive enough to exclude small businesses from implementation. However, partnering with managed service providers can help neutralize costs.

A virtualized environment can also be accompanied by a learning curve. Affected teams must have skills or be trained in implementing and managing a virtualized environment. They may need to learn new infrastructures such as hypervisors, application programming interfaces, management tools, and more. IT teams also need to be aware of the ability to manage applications that adapt correctly when running in a virtual environment.

Virtualization also faces various security risks. Data proves to be a valuable target for attacks today. As the use of virtualization software has corporate data stored on third-party resources, the possibility of dealing with data breaches increases. The risk of data theft, loss or compromise increases.

Additionally, rapid scalability in virtualized environments proves challenging. Making sure all the necessary storage, security, software and resources are available is a time-consuming and tiring process. Increased use of resources can also lead to additional costs.

Features

Resource isolation

Isolated virtual machines are the result of virtualization. Each virtual machine is capable of having multiple guest users in the form of devices, applications, operating systems, or other entities. Since virtual machines offer isolated virtual environments to guest users, their confidential information is protected. However, these isolated environments do not prevent guest users from being interconnected with each other.

Virtualization also allows for performance optimization. This involves tuning the properties of resources in the virtual environment to tune the performance of a guest.

Emulation

The virtualization layer controls the environment in which guest programs run. Additionally, guest programs that require specific functionality that may be missing on a physical host can also run in an environment that emulates the host.

Portability

The guest can be stored in a virtual image and can be moved and run on different virtual machines in the context of hardware virtualization. The binary code representing the application components is executable without having to recompile on any implementation of the corresponding virtual machine in virtualization programmatically.

Safety

The power to transparently regulate how guest programs run allows you to provide a safe and controlled execution environment. Managing a virtual machine offers the ability not only to control but also to filter guest program activities. This helps prevent malicious operations from being performed.

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