What is Virtualization?

Virtualization, as the name implies, creates a virtual version of a once-physical item. In a datacenter, the most commonly virtualized items include operating systems, servers, storage devices, or desktops. With virtualization, technologies like applications and operating systems are abstracted away from the hardware or software beneath them. Hardware virtualization involves virtual machines (VMs), which take the place of a “real” computer with a “real” operating system.

Virtualization explained

The evolution of virtualization

Decades ago, operating system (OS) virtualization was born. In this form, software is used to let hardware run multiple operating systems simultaneously. Started on mainframes, this technology enabled IT administrators to avoid spending too much costly processing power.

Beginning in the 1960s, virtualization and virtual machines (VMs) started on just a couple of mainframes, which were large, clunky pieces with time-sharing capabilities. Most notable among these machines was IBM 360/67, which became a staple in the world of mainframes in the 1970s. It wasn’t long before VMs entered the heart of personal computers in the 1980s.

But mainstream virtualization adoption didn’t begin until the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. While some VMs like those on IBM’s mainframes are still used today, they’re not nearly as popular, and few companies regard mainframes as a business staple. The first business to make VMs mainstream was Insignia Solutions, who created a SoftPC, an x86-based software emulator. This success inspired more organizations—namely Apple, Nutanix, and later, Citrix—to come out with their own virtualization products. 

Virtualization technology evolution

How does virtualization work?

One of the main reasons businesses use virtualization technology is server virtualization, which uses a hypervisor to “duplicate” the hardware underneath. In a non-virtualized environment, the guest operating system (OS) normally works in conjunction with the hardware. When virtualized, the OS still runs as if its on hardware, letting companies enjoy much of the same performance they expect without hardware. Though the hardware performance vs. virtualized performance isn’t always equal, virtualization still works and is preferable since most guest operating systems don’t need complete access to hardware.

As a result, businesses can enjoy better flexibility and control and eliminate any dependency on a single piece of hardware. Because of its success with server virtualization, virtualization has spread to other areas of the datacenter, including applications, networks, data, and desktops.

The benefits of virtualization

Put simply, virtualization solutions streamline your enterprise datacenter. It abstracts away the complexity in deploying and administering a virtualized solution, while providing the flexibility needed in the modern datacenter.

Not to mention, virtualization can help create a “greener” IT environment by reducing costs on power, cooling, and hardware. But cost savings aren’t the only advantage of opting for virtualized solutions. Here are more reasons organizations are going virtual:

Virtualization minimizes the amount of servers an organization needs, letting them cut down on heat buildup associated with a server-heavy datacenter. The less physical “clutter” your datacenter has, the less money and research you need to funnel into heat dissipation. 

When it comes to saving money, minimizing hardware is key. With virtualization, organizations are able to reduce their hardware usage, and most importantly, reduce maintenance, downtime, and electricity overtime. 

Virtualization makes redeploying a new server simple and quick. Should a server die, virtual machine snapshots can come to the rescue within minutes.

Backups are far simpler with virtualization. Your virtual machine can perform backups and take snapshots throughout the day, so you always have the most current data available. Plus, you can move your VMs between servers, and they can be redeployed quicker.

As you virtualize more of your datacenter, you’re inevitably reducing your datacenter footprint—and your carbon footprint as a whole. On top of supporting the planet, reducing your datacenter footprint also cuts down dramatically on hardware, power, and cooling costs.

You’re better equipped to test and re-test in a virtualized environment than a hardware-driven one. Because VMs keep snapshots, you can revert to a previous one should you make an error during testing.

Virtualization provides an abstraction layer between software and hardware. In other words, VMs are hardware-agnostic, so you can run any machine on any hardware. As a result, you don’t have the tie-down associated with vendor lock-in.

When your datacenter relies on virtual instances, disaster recovery is far less painful, and you end up facing much shorter, infrequent downtime. You can use recent snapshots to get your VMs up and running, or you may choose to move those machines elsewhere.

Virtualization can help you “cloudify” your datacenter. A fully or mostly virtualized environment mimics that of the cloud, getting you set up for the switch to cloud. In addition, you can choose to deploy your VMs in the cloud. 

Why should organizations opt for virtualization?

Organizations hoping to pursue a more cloud-like IT environment will need to set their sights on virtualization first. Virtualizing your datacenter helps you use your server resources far more efficiently. In the past, businesses would have to dedicate one application—such as email—on a single server. In those cases, businesses would either over-accumulate multiple servers to take on their multiple applications, or they’d face a different issue altogether: Resources being underused on an entire server.

Either way, this method is costly, space-consuming, and inefficient. Thanks to virtual solutions, IT teams can run multiple applications, workloads, and operating systems on just a single virtual machine, and resources can be added and removed as needed. Virtualization scales easily with businesses. As demands rise and fall, it helps organizations stay on top of their resource utilization and respond faster as changes arise.

Companies that use virtualization

JetBlue Airways use virtualization

“Once everyone saw the value of the virtual desktops on Nutanix, they all wanted to use it. It’s nice to be on the receiving-end of so many kudos.” 

Mauritius Union Group virtualization solution

 “Thanks to Nutanix Metro Availability we can now use one solution for box-to-box replication of our storage and VMs, as opposed to the multiple products we used in the past.”

Gainesville virtualization with Nutanix Enterprise Cloud

The City of Gainesville, Georgia upgraded its datacenter from 3-tier infrastructure to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud. The simplified management and higher performance has improved all city services. 

Kindred Credit Union virtual environment

Kindred has now moved 98% of its virtual environment over to Nutanix and is repurposing the legacy servers for disaster recovery at a remote site.

Kasetsart University creating virtual machines

“During the past two years, the faculty has been successful in integrating the faculty’s systems and creating an unlimited number of virtual machines."

More virtualization reads

Are you Still Paying for Virtualization?

Virtualization Solutions for the Enterprise Cloud

Next Generation Virtualization: The Converged Datacenter

Are You Holding Onto Old School Virtualization?

Nutanix AHV: Built-in Enterprise-Class Virtualization

IDC Report: TCO & ROI Comparison

See what virtualization can do for you

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