TUCOWS ARTICLE

What Is Virtualization? - Part 1

Tucows Editorial Feature on "What Is Virtualization? - Part 1 of 2. Find out how you can use "virtual machines" to make your life easier.
Published: Sep 18, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
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Tucows Editorials

What Is Virtualization? Part 1

by Michael E. Callahan aka Dr. File Finder


A Matter Of Perspective

Virtual. It's a term you hear more often lately. Most people have heard of "virtual reality." Okay, and what does that really mean?It means that you experience something that isn't truly real, but that it seems like it is. You may think you're walking across a rocky terrain on another planet with a "ray gun" in your hand looking for alien enemies, but you're really not. The system is setup to make it seem real. Very real. So, what then is virtualization?

In todays technology "virtualization" is a way to have "virtualmachines" that aren't really machines, but they seem like they are. Currently most "virtualization" products are targeted towards big companies and IT professionals. It's my opinion, however, that the setypes of products could be of great use to average home users. Why?Because virtualization makes sense and I'm here to tell you why.

Breaking It Out In Boxes

Think of it this way. Right now you're probably sitting at a computer.Your computer is a real, physical machine. On that machine you've got an operating system and you've also got programs you've installed. You also have data. When the machine gets old or out-of-date you have to move all your "stuff" to a new computer. You have to reinstall all those programs. You have to move over all your data. You're doing all this simply because your equipment got old or failed. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the operating system or software.

Virtualization separates the machine from the software. When you do that you open up all kinds of possibilities. When you can create"virtual machines" you can have several virtual computers onone physical machine. The virtual machines can be running different operating systems and can have different software running in them. If one crashes, the others are just fine. With virtual machines if Dad wants to fiddle with Linux the whole family doesn't have to participate. He can set up a virtual machine and experiment all he wants. Virtualization gives you flexibility!

Building A Virtual Machine

In all of my research I've used software that creates virtual machines from Microsoft, Parallels, and VMware. Using one of these products I can create a virtual machine on my physical computer and give it hardware of its own. I can allocate RAM, CD or DVD drives, sound card, network interface, and more. On this virtual machine I can install an operating system. I can install software. I can store data. I can create machines that run Windows XP or Windows 98, it doesn't matter.

I allocate so much disk space to each virtual machine. Everythingon a virtual machine is stored in a few files. So, I can give space in a couple different ways. Say I tell VMware that I want the virtual machine to have 20 gigabytes of disk space. I can allocate all of it at once or I can allocate it in 2 gigabyte chunks.

Every virtual machine I create is an entity unto itself. Right now I'm working in a virtual machine that's running the beta of Windows Vista. I also have a Windows XP machine running and also one that's using Ubuntu, a type of Linux. The XP machine has all my email,utilities, documents, articles, and so on. I use different virtual machines for different purposes. I can toggle between them or I can stay in one and make it full-screen. When it's full-screen you could never tell it was a "virtual machine."

The Flexibility

Because a virtual machine is contained is a few files it makes it easy to move those files to another physical machine. Another example.Say this computer begins to wear out and I get a new one. Usingvirtualization I can easily move my virtual machines to the new computer. I can install VMware Workstation or the free VMware Player, or Parallels Workstation, or Microsoft Virtual Machine, and immediately I'm back in business. No programs to install, no data to move or transfer. Within minutes of having a new computer arrive I can have everything I need installed on it by way of virtualization.

Using VMware Workstation I can clone an existing virtual machine. Then I can make changes to that one and not the original. Have children? Clone one machine for each child and let them customize it to their hearts content. No matter what they download or install, they aren't affecting the real computer. When you want to backup, just backup the files that contain the virtual machines.

Summing It Up!

"Virtualization" is very appealing to businesses and IT departments. Think of it. You create one virtual machine, configuredexactly how you want it to be, and then clone it again and again.You can take snapshots of a virtual machine and restore it to any point anytime you want. Just a few of the benefits include:

  • You can use virtual machines on hardware that isn't as expensive
  • Easy to move files to a new computer
  • Ability to run multiple operating systems at the same time
  • If you always use virtual machines no data is left on the computer
  • If you surf in a virtual machine threats can't attack the real computer.
  • Computer resources are allocated more logically
  • You can revert to "snapshots" of an earlier version
  • And more!

It's my personal opinion that while virtualization makes sense for business, it also makes sense for professionals, colleges, students,homes, and families. Why reinstall everything and move all your data just because your computer is dying? Why use one operating system when you can use several? Virtual machines are easy to backup, easy to move,and very stable.

I'll be back next week with part two of this two-part series on virtualization. Next week I'll look a little deeper at just how far you can go with virtual infrastructure. I'm excited about this technology and I see all kinds of benefits to it. I hope you'll join me next week for part two.




About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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