Put simply, the term virtualization is defined as creating a virtual version of a thing, as opposed to an actual, tangible version of that thing. Sounds simple enough, right? But what does it mean, exactly?
Traditionally, computers and their hardware work one way: the hardware is a physical component of the computer that runs its software and its operating systems, like Windows. This works perfectly for a user who only needs one computer with one operating system. But for businesses, groups of computers (called hosts) are often run off large servers that contain the hardware necessary to service those hosts.
Each server runs one operating system and runs one service application. For instance, one server is used to control email service, another for Web service, and another for database service. With this setup, it is imperative that each application be physically isolated from other applications in order to preserve their integrity. For example, if an email service and a database service were installed on the same server, any maintenance done to either of the applications would negatively affect the other. Because of this, many companies are forced to utilize multiple servers that are individually capable of performing only one service.
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if each server were being used optimally. Unfortunately, with one server running only one application based on one operating system, it is more likely that each server is using less than 20% of its actual available resources—meaning the cost to purchase and maintain the server is astronomical compared to the application it runs. Yet, businesses need their email servers and Web servers and database servers. This is where virtualization comes in.
Think of a school as a computer host. The children who come to school every day are the individual applications necessary for the school to run. Before the school bus was invented, every parent had to drive his or her child to school, using one vehicle (or server) per child, and using extra gas and resources to do so.
Then, the school bus was invented, and it is able to transport all the children to school. Each child has his own seat, and fewer resources and gas are used to drive each child to school every day.
Essentially, virtualization does the same thing. It allows one server to run multiple operating systems and multiple applications, all of which are isolated from one another. This allows the server to run more optimally, which means businesses can use the resources they have more efficiently without spending unnecessary money on hardware purchases and electricity.
Here's what a server looks like before and after virtualization:
Virtualizing your office servers allows you to consolidate your servers to save you space, time, and (most importantly) money. Rather than maintaining a dozen or more servers that each drain the same amount of power while neglecting an enormous portion of their resources, you can optimize your server productivity and spend less money on your power bill. Using a hypervisor to virtualize your servers is efficient and effective—by allocating your available resources on your terms, you ensure that everything is doing what it needs to be doing, when it needs to do it. And, you no longer have to worry about losing your data if the hardware of a server malfunctions, because it has never been easier to transfer information.
Virtualization is the best option for businesses, period. There is every reason to switch, and no reason not to.
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