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Over the past several years, a computing process known as virtualization has revolutionized the IT industry–enabling companies to maximize hardware resources while saving on costs. Let’s discuss the concept of virtualization and how it can help small businesses improve their efficiency and cost effectiveness.

What Is Virtualization?

Computer Hope defines virtualization as “the process of creating a virtual version of something, such as a server or computer system, using software instead of hardware.” In other words, we create a software version of a hardware function.

This process allows multiple virtual environments to share space on a single server, rather than dedicating one server per application or operating system. A virtual server effectively partitions a physical server into more than one, acting as server to its own system. A virtual desktop refers to one of several virtual interfaces that may all live on the same physical machine, but they act as different computers and are used by different individuals (even remotely).

How It Works, and Why It Helps

The traditional IT model requires a single server to run a single operating system. That’s a highly inefficient process, because each server operates at only 15-30 percent capacity at most. With virtualization, we can create multiple virtual environments: A virtual machine (VM) consists of its own OS and application. These VMs then can each occupy space on the same server while running independently of each other, thanks to a regulating software layer known as a hypervisor. The end result: Your business can run the equivalent of multiple systems using only one physical machine, saving both time and resources in the process.

Is Virtualization Different from Cloud Computing?

Yes, cloud computing and virtualization are two different things, although they are related. This article in Business News Daily describes the relationship succinctly: “Virtualization is software that manipulates hardware, while cloud computing refers to a service that results from that manipulation.” Virtualization is a technology, while cloud solutions are services made possible through that technology. Virtualization can exist without the cloud, but currently not vice versa.

One of the key ingredients in virtualization is the hypervisor, that software administrating the virtual environments. In recent years, two companies, VMware and Microsoft, have begun competing fiercely for the hypervisor market share. In the next post, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each.