First we have to understand “What is Virtualization? “
Virtualization is a technology that allows you create a software-based (Virtual) representation of something rather than a physical one using resources that are traditionally bound to hardware.
Virtualization can apply to applications, servers, storage, and networks.
It helps to reduce IT expenses while boosting efficiency and agility using full capacity of the physical machine by distributing its capabilities among many users or environments on any business size.
Virtualization began in the 1960s, as a method of logically dividing the resources that are bound to hardware and it wasn’t widely adopted until the early 2000s.
How virtualization works
Virtualization uses a software called Hypervisor to simulate a hardware and create a VM (Virtual Machine) to perform certain tasks.
Hypervisors can run on top of an operating system (Laptop computer) or can be installed directly onto hardware (Server computer).
Hypervisors are responsible to manage the available a hardware for the virtual environments dividing resources. This allows businesses to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single server providing economies of scale and greater efficiency.
Resources like CPU’s, Hard Drive, Memory and I/O (input/output) are partitioned as needed from the physical environment to all virtual environments. Users interact and run computations on the virtual environment (Guest machine or VM) and they don’t even know they are running in a virtualized environment.
The performance of the VM (Virtual Machine) is not equal to the performance of the operating system running on a physical hardware.
This concept of virtualization works because most of the time guest operating systems or applications use from 5 to 15 percent of the server hardware capacity.
Its highly inefficient by any standard to deploy servers to run just one operating system or application at a time because they don’t need the full use of the physical hardware.
Running a virtual environment allows flexibility, control, isolation and more, which allowed virtualization to spread to applications, networks, data, desktops and other services.
Note: x86 servers are challenged by its limitations because they are designed to run just one operating system and application at a time.
Benefits of virtualization
There are many benefits of virtual machines like partitioning, encapsulation, isolation, flexibility, hardware independence and more.
Partitioning is one of the key properties of virtualization because it allows you to have multiple operating systems and applications on one physical machine using the resources provided by the hardware to run specific tasks.
Another key property is that partitioning helps to divide system resources between the virtual machines running on a physical machine.
VMs can also save the entire state of a virtual machine to files on the VM Host with just a click and you can simply move and copy virtual machines as easily as moving and copying files on any computer.
With isolation, virtual environments can provide fault and security isolation at the hardware level and provide performance on the VMs using advanced resource controls.
Backups are so important nowadays and on virtual machines you can do this thanks to the flexibility of the virtualization technology.
You can simple backup all the VM’s with simple clicks depending of the virtual environment deployed.
This is one of the major abilities of the virtualization because it allows you to provision or migrate any virtual machine to any physical server.
Types of virtualization
There are several types of virtualizations but the most commonly virtualized resources are Servers, Desktop and Networks.
Servers are designed to process high volume of specific task really well so other computers like desktops and laptops can do the other tasks.
But, most servers operate at less than 15 percent of their capacity, so, virtualizing servers lets it to work more than those specific function using partitioning, which is one of the key properties of virtualization.
This also enables faster workload deployment, increase application performance, higher scalability and availability.
You can check this link for some Server Virtualization Software Vendors.
Desktop virtualization or VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)
refers to the process of running a user desktop inside a virtual machine that lives on a server in the datacenter. It’s a powerful form of desktop virtualization because it enables fully personalized desktops for each user with all the security and simplicity of centralized management.
Deploying desktops is different than deploying a server. This allows users to access the desktop remotely. You can deliver virtualized desktops and applications to your employees, branch offices and even mobile workers with security and portability using their laptop computers, Apple iOS and Android devices.
Network virtualization is a complete reproduction of a physical network in a software and it separates a network key function (like file sharing, IP services and Directory Services) so they can be distributed among environments.
It helps to reduce costs, since the services keep running exactly the same as if on a physical network environment.
It presents logical networking devices and services like: ports, switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, VPNs, cables, hubs and more and its particularly popular in the telecommunications industry.
Running Virtualization on a laptop or desktop
Many people still think that virtualization is for business companies but I have to say that isn’t true.
There are types of virtualization that usually run on enterprises like: vSphere by VMware, Hyper-V by Microsoft, XenServer by Citrix and more.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to use these virtualizations software at home, I am just saying that most of the time you will see them on enterprise companies end other business companies.
Common virtualization on a laptop or desktop
You can run virtualization on your home laptop or desktop if they meet the minimum requirement to run the chosen software.
You need to have more RAM and Disk Space to allocate the gest operating system or the application.
Let’s say you have a laptop or desktop with a core i3 CPU, 3 GB of RAM and a Hard Disk of 250 GB.
You need to download and install a virtualization software.
There are some free virtualization software’s you can download.
Virtual Box – this is a free tool for virtualization, VirtualBox is a product from Oracle and is another lite software you can use to create your virtualization environment.
To run VirtualBox on your machine, you need:
A reasonably powerful x86 hardware. You can use any recent Intel or AMD processor to run the software.
Memory – The concept is to run a virtual operating system or application is similar, depending on wat guest operating systems you want to run.
You will need at least 512 MB of RAM to run the guest but probably more, and the more the better performance you will get on your guests.
Basically, you will need whatever your host operating system needs to run comfortably, plus the amount the guest operating system needs.
There are operating system that requires 512 GB of RAM and there are others that requires at least 1 GB of RAM, so it depends on the guest operating system you need to run.
If you want to run Windows 10 on windows 7, you probably need at least 2GB of RAM otherwise you can have performance issues on that guest.
You always have to check the minimum memory requirement of the guest operating system.
They often will refuse the installation if it is given less or if it runs you will probably face malfunctions.
Hard disk space – VirtualBox is very light, a typical installation will only need about 30 MB of the Hard Disk space. But, the virtual machines will require fairly huge Hard Disk space to represent their own Hard Disk Storage which is normal.
You can still have an option to use dynamic disk or a fixed size disk.
With dynamic disk you are going to use the disk space as you need it and with fixed size disk you will have an allocated size immediately according to the size you choose.
Supported host operating system
Virtual box is a cross-platform since it supports Windows, Linux and Mac OS operating systems.
VMWare Player– this is another free version from VMWare for personal and home use, it’s a non-commercial version of the Workstation Pro which is designed for Pro users and requires a paid license to use.
The VMWare player is lite, please read the minimum requirements bellow before installation:
The VMWare team recommends that you PC must have at least a CPU with 1.3 GHz or faster 64-bit processor (2GHz recommended) and 2GB RAM minimum (4GB RAM recommended).
Also, remember that you must have enough memory to run the 64-bit host operating system, plus the RAM required for each guest operating system and for applications on the host and guest.
You always have to check your guest operating system and application documentations for their requirements before installation.
64-bit x86 Intel Core 2 Duo Processor or equivalent, AMD Athlon™ 64 FX Dual Core Processor or equivalent
1.3GHz or faster core speed
2GB RAM minimum/ 4GB RAM recommended
Workstation 12 Player installation:
300MB of available disk space for the application and additional hard disk space required for each virtual machine.
Note that for 12.5 Player requires a 64-bit host operating system to run virtualization.
64-bit host operating systems supported:
Windows 10, 8, 7, Server 2012, Server 2008.
Ubuntu 8.04 and above
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and above
CentOS 5.0 and above
Oracle Linux 5.0 and above
openSUSE 10.2 and above
SUSE Linux 10 and above
For Windows 7 Aero graphics in virtual machine
3GB RAM (Host PC)
Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.2GHz and above or AMD Athlon 4200+ and above
NVIDIA GeForce 9900GT and above or ATI Radeon HD 2600 and above
For VMWare you can visit the VMware Compatibility Guide for a current list of supported host and guest operating systems and if you plan to run 64-bit virtual machines with VMware Workstation Player, please refer to the Knowledge Base article on compatible 64-bit CPUs.
Here you have some supported guest operating systems:
Windows 10, 8, 7, XP.
Has you can see VMWare have support for many well-known operating systems for many Linux distributions and Windows machines.
Please don’t make some confusions here, guest operating system and host operating system are two different things.
You may get confused after those list I showed you but just to make things clear please read bellow.
Please understand that host operating system is the computer you use to run the Hypervisor software. To make things more clear it’s your laptop.
And, the guest operating system is the system or application running inside your Hypervisor software.
You have to understand well these concepts to avoid mistakes and performance issues.
Always remember to see the system requirements for each (Host operating system and Guest operating system) before installation.
Windows Virtual PC is one of the Microsoft virtualization technologies.
These software is not commonly used for virtualization nowadays. In other words, it can’t compete with virtualization technologies from VMWare like VMWare Player and Oracle VirtualBox popularity.
Despite this, Microsoft have one of the most used virtualization platform called Hyper-V.
Hyper-V is commonly used on servers but you can still install it on your laptop and desktop machine.
Virtual PC, follows the same concepts of virtualization and also it’s designed to run on Microsoft machines.
Below are the requirements to run the Microsoft Virtual PC.
Processor – on the host side you need to have a 32-bit/64-bit Intel or AMD processor capable of hardware assisted virtualization.
Memory – For memory you need at least 2GB of memory, don’t forget that we are talking on the host side and I’ve already explained the difference between host side and guest side.
Hard Disk – Virtual PC is also very light and you just need 20MB hard disk space for installing the software virtualization.
Operating System – Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise.
Processor – With Virtual PC you are able to install 32 and 64 Bit guest operating system.
Memory – Still the same above concept for the memory, the more the better performance you will get on your guests.
Hard Disk – For hard disk space it depends on the system you are going to install. It’s safe to have at least 15GB for the guest operating system installation.
Operating System – Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) Professional, Windows Vista Enterprise Service Pack 1 (SP1), Ultimate Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Business Service Pack 1 (SP1), Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise.
Note: Virtual application feature not supported on Windows Vista Business Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows 7 Professional edition.
In conclusion, there are many virtualization software’s and you are free to use the one you like.
You can read this amazing article for enterprise virtualization.
Tell me what you think about Virtualization Tech in comments section, thank you for reading.