Cloud computing is increasingly shaping both the business world and our everyday professional lives. After all, it allows companies to operate more efficiently, profitably and securely than ever before. However, all of this would never have been possible without the process of virtualization. What exactly virtualization is and how it works is explained in the following article.
What is virtualization?
Virtualization is the simulation or virtualization of hardware environments, which can then be used to run all conceivable computing services. And this is done without the individual services being tied to a specific hardware, as is the case in traditional IT networks. This makes virtualization possible for all services in the area of cloud computing.
In practical terms, you can think of it like this: A traditional IT infrastructure uses specific hardware for a particular computing service, e.g., a dedicated server for mail and a leader for running applications. Virtualization allows several computing services to use the same hardware or host and at the same time function completely autonomously from each other.
In our example, this would mean that the same hardware is used for mail and applications. In this way, processes can be managed much more scalably and efficiently. In addition, since less hardware needs to be used, ranging from servers to cables to cooling systems, operating costs are also reduced dramatically. Virtualization makes computing services of all kinds more practical, more efficient and less expensive.
This also makes it clear why there can be no cloud computing without virtualization. After all, cloud computing is all about the respective provider offering infrastructure, platforms and software without the user actually having to be in possession of the respective physical computing power. As the importance of cloud computing in the corporate world continues to grow, so will the importance of virtualization.
How does virtualization work?
The basic principle of virtualization is rather straightforward. Using software known as a hypervisor, a physical computing machine is turned into multiple virtual computing machines that act independently of each other. The hypervisor can be run either on a desktop or, as in most cases, directly on the server.
The hypervisor can be thought of as a management tool that is used to create the various virtual machines, assign tasks to them and then manage them. The special thing about it is that the hypervisor automatically assigns the required computing power of the physical computing machine to the various virtual processes. In this way, applications and entire networks can be scaled optimally.
So that other users can access the various virtual computing machines, these are combined in network pools - the cloud. In this way, a single physical machine can be used for countless different applications. This was unthinkable in the past.
By now using significantly fewer physical computing machines for the same performance, companies can reduce their own maintenance and energy costs immensely. In the next step, virtualization then eliminates the need to maintain internal physical computing machines. This is the case, for example, when using a public cloud such as Amazon AWS, where all computing services are only provided via a virtual environment.
The different types of virtualization
The principle of virtualization is therefore straightforward. However, how this technology is executed or applied in reality can vary greatly. In recent years, IT has also made great strides in this area, and virtualization now offers companies more possibilities than ever before.
These are some of the processes that can be organized with it:
- Desktop virtualization
- Data virtualization
- Storage virtualization
- Network virtualization
Traditional desktop environments have been the standard for decades, especially in offices. However, there is one problem: each of these environments must be installed, configured and updated individually for each physical computer. Desktop virtualization allows a central administrator or automated application to simulate this desktop environment on hundreds of physical machines.
This central location, whether administrator or bot can then also perform mass configurations and updates on all of these desktop environments. Security checks can also be performed from a central location without needing physical access to the computer. Large enterprise networks in particular can operate much more cost-effectively, securely and efficiently this way.
Data virtualization is one of the most important tools for both cloud and edge computing and all Big Data technologies. It involves virtually aggregating data from different and diverse storage locations or sources into a central location. Users can then access this data as if it came from a single source.
Storage virtualization uses the concept of virtualization in a slightly different way. It involves virtually pooling the storage services of different computing machines and then controlling them from a central console. Storage virtualization is critical to streamlining and thus scaling the performance of large networks.
Network virtualization is the next logical step in the process of virtualization. It involves dividing the available bandwidth of a physical network into multiple independent channels. These channels are then reallocated to servers or devices as needed. This can significantly simplify the provisioning of a network, for example when it comes to firewalling or load balancing. And without having to change anything in the underlying infrastructure.