Ever Wondered How Exactly Virtualization Works?

Written by Guest Blogger on October 11, 2012

Virtualization is when a desktop environment for a personal computer such as a laptop or a desktop is separated from the physical computer that creates and powers the environment. This is done through a client and server approach to computing. A closely-related term is the virtual desktop interface or virtual desktop infrastructure. This refers to the server computing model that makes desktop virtualization possible, and it includes both the software and the hardware devices that are necessary for the virtualized environment to successfully operate. This article will serve as an introduction to and explanation of virtualization in computer environments. For more in depth information on virtualization, click here.


The vast majority of computer hardware today was made solely to run one operating system at a time while supporting one application. As a result, the processing power on most machines in use in office and business settings is significantly underutilized. Through virtualization, you can run a number of virtual machines in sequence or simultaneously on one physical machine.

Tell me about the Machines

Each virtual machine you create will share some of the memory, processing power, hard drive space, and other resources of the single physical computer. This sharing can occur over a number of computing environments. In addition, each virtual machine is fully independent of the next, which vastly increases the potential for productivity in business or other applied environments.

For example, each virtual machine you install in a virtualization setup can run its own operating system and applications, meaning several different operating systems and programs can be run simultaneously on a single physical machine. Due to the enormous flexibility afforded by virtualization, it is no surprise that a number of companies have begun to embrace virtualization as a cheaper method of running specialized operating systems and software packages specific to their services.

Good virtualization platforms are designed to be used in a wide range of applications and will come with the necessary support systems to enable their use in business environments. Most computers are based on the x86 processing platform, which is why most virtualization platforms and solutions are designed to start with this architecture as a base for virtualizing other operating systems and applications.

What Else Should I Know?

Through virtualization, an x86 computer’s hardware resources, such as the network controller, memory, CPU, and hard disk drive, can be transformed so a fully functional virtual machine is made. This fully functional virtual machine will have its own applications and operating system, allowing it to operate the same way a “real” computer would.

Because a complete operating system and set of applications may be installed on each virtual machine, the potential for system conflicts and data errors is significantly reduced in comparison to business environments that rely on people logging into and out of accounts shared on the same computer.

Most virtualization solutions work through the deployment of a software layer or visor on top of the host computer’s hardware. Alternatively, the software layer may be installed on top of an operating system. Within the software layer is a hypervisor, or virtual machine monitor, that allows hardware resources to be distributed in real time for effective virtualization.

Brian Jensen works with Dell. When Brian is not working he enjoys spending time with his wife and two dogs. For more information on any of Dell’s services, Brian recommends this link.

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