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pecialized software called a hypervisor emulates the PC client or server's CPU, memory, hard

disk, network and other hardware resources completely, enabling virtual machines to share the
resources. The hypervisor can emulate multiple virtual hardware platforms that are isolated from
each other, allowing virtual machines to run Linux and Windows server operating systems on the
same underlying physical host. Virtualization saves costs by reducing the need for physical
hardware systems. Virtual machines more efficiently use hardware, which lowers the quantities
of hardware and associated maintenance costs, and reduces power and cooling demand. They
also ease management because virtual hardware does not fail. Administrators can take advantage
of virtual environments to simplify backups, disaster recovery, new deployments and basic
system administration tasks.
Virtual machines do not require specialized hypervisor-specific hardware. Virtualization does
however require more bandwidth, storage and processing capacity than a traditional server or
desktop if the physical hardware is going to host multiple running virtual machines. VMs can
easily move, be copied and reassigned between host servers to optimize hardware resource
utilization. Because VMs on a physical host can consume unequal resource quantities (one may
hog the available physical storage while another stores little), IT professionals must balance VMs
with available resources.

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Coupling virtualization and storage

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The prescriptive nature of converged infrastructure
Cloud computing layers additional technologies such as self-service provisioning and chargeback
onto virtualization. For example, in a virtualized data center, the IT staff will spin up new virtual
machines based on user demand or a new project. In a cloud environment, a user can provision
virtual machines from a self-service catalog and specify resources without interacting with the
underlying physical equipment.

The use of virtual machines also comes with several important management considerations,
many of which can be addressed through general systems administration best practices and tools
that are designed to manage VMs. There are some risks to consolidation, including overtaxing
resources or potentially experiencing outages on multiple VMs due to one physical hardware
outage. While these cost savings increase as more virtual machines share the same hardware
platform, it does add risk. It is possible to place hundreds of virtual machines on the same
hardware, but if the hardware platform fails it could take out dozens or hundreds of virtual
Several vendors offer virtual machine software but two main vendors dominate in the
marketplace: VMware and Microsoft. VMware has a mature product portfolio with many years
of use in the IT industry. While a bit of a late player to virtualization, Microsoft is showing
considerable progress. Many IT shops host noncritical applications on Microsoft VMs because
the virtualization environment costs less than VMware's offerings. Several open-source
alternatives are evolving rapidly with new features and increased stability, but do not have the
same maturity or support options as these vendor offerings.
Note: This entry refers to the term virtual machine (VM) as it applies to virtualization
technology, which creates independent environments for use by operating systems and
applications designed to run directly on server or client hardware. Numerous other technologies,
such as programming languages and environments, also use the same concepts and also use the
term "virtual machine."

Margaret Rouse asks:

What is the highest number of virtual machines you've

seen sharing one physical host?