A few years ago people might have thought you're ‘crazy’ if you suggested building multiple ‘machines’ on top of one machine - not anymore! With inviting benefits ranging from efficiency to cost cutting being popular reasons why forward looking businesses are investing in this technology, the rising demand does not come as a surprise.
What is Virtualization?
Simply put, virtualization is the creation of a virtual version of something. This could be a computer, a server (server virtualization), a network or a physical storage device. Virtualization in the context of software development is the creation of a virtual environment that can be used to run software applications. This virtual environment can be used to test new software applications or to run existing ones in a controlled and isolated manner. Please take care not to confuse virtualization with containerization as there is a significant difference between these two technologies.
We’ll get into details of the benefits of virtualization shortly. But let’s make a quick note at this level that it can offer many benefits for software developers, including the ability to test software in different environments, the ability to isolate programs from one another, and the ability to provision new development environments quickly. There are various categories of virtualization depending on what you want to achieve.
A key component of virtualization is something called a virtual machine. Let’s clear this out.
What is a virtual machine?
A virtual machine (VM) is a software-driven ‘mimic’ of a physical computer. Applications that run inside a VM are isolated from the underlying hardware and can be run on any equipment that can support the virtualization software. This flexibility is what makes virtualization an important technology for businesses and organizations that need to optimize their use of IT resources.
A server that is virtualized can run multiple virtual machines, each of which can be assigned to a different task. Essentially, each virtual machine is a computer on its own. The virtual machine operates with the capability of a physical computer. It runs computer applications and functions that would otherwise consume more time, resources, and energy if performed on different physical computers. In other words, you only need one physical machine to perform the tasks of multiple physical computers.
Apart from enabling one machine to perform the functions of many machines by simultaneously running multiple virtual computers, virtualization also enables the running of multiple operating systems. Each machine will depend on its separate Operating System, and so will the host computer. The only constant factor in virtualization is the host computer’s physical hardware.
The top 10 key benefits of virtualization for your business
Now, more than ever, businesses are utilizing virtualization technology to efficiently use their hardware resources - it's never been easier. If you're not enjoying this advantage yet, here are 10 reasons why you should start!
1. Cost savings
Cost is a major factor in any business, and you’ll be glad to know that virtualization will save you a ton of operating costs in the following ways:
- Server purchases: One of the most obvious ways virtualization saves your business money is by reducing the number of computing resources you need. Think of all the hardware, software, and data you need to run your business. Now imagine having to purchase, install, and maintain that same infrastructure for every single location you have. It's a daunting task, and one that can quickly add up to a lot of money. With virtualization, you can consolidate multiple servers onto a single platform, which can result in big savings on new server purchases.
- Energy costs: By consolidating servers and using virtual machines, you can save a lot on computing energy costs including cooling costs. Servers generate a lot of heat, and if they are not properly cooled, it can lead to system failures and data loss. But with virtual machines, you can save on cooling costs by reducing the number of fans and air conditioning units that you need.
- Operational & maintenance costs: The consolidation of resources into fewer, more powerful systems means you need less staff to manage and maintain your infrastructure. And with automation tools in place, you can have many routine tasks executed with little to no human interaction.
- License fees: The fewer the servers, the fewer the number of licenses you need to buy. This can save you a lot of money in the long run.
2. Negligible downtime
These are some of the ways that virtualization reduces downtime:
- Buffer against hardware failure: Outages caused by hardware failures or maintenance are not a big concern in virtualized environments. Unlike physical machines, virtual machines don’t need to be shut down for upgrades or until a failure is repaired. Instead, VMs and all their running applications can be transferred within physical computers, thus eliminating the need to shut down.
- Quick provisioning: When a server goes down, for example, you can spin up a new virtual machine that is identical to the old one and have it up and running in a short time. This capability is especially useful for businesses that experience regular server outages. By having a number of virtual machines pre-configured and ready to go, you can minimize the overall amount of downtime that your business experiences.
- Automated updates and patches: With a physical server, you need to schedule downtime so that you can apply updates and patches. But with virtualization, the updates and patches are automatically applied. This not only saves time, but it also eliminates the possibility of human error.
3. Enhanced efficiency and scalability
Virtualization makes it possible to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical server, an incredibly efficient use of resources thanks to highly efficient virtual machines. With this kind of efficiency, you are able to accomplish more with less.
Additionally, virtualization makes it easier to add or remove servers, so you can easily scale your infrastructure up or down as needed. This means you really don't have to make a physical investment in more hardware. The overall impact is that you can respond quickly to changing demand, without incurring the cost and complexity of managing physical infrastructure.
For example, if a website becomes very popular and starts to receive too much traffic for one server to handle, it can be scaled up by adding more servers. Similarly, if the traffic decreases, the website can be scaled down by removing servers.
4. Enhanced security
Virtualization is a hot topic right now across network security circles. Here are five ways this technology can help keep your network safe:
- Increased security features and options: When you virtualize your network, you gain access to an expanded set of security features and options. This helps you to better protect your systems from attacks.
- Effective virtual firewalls: A virtualized network allows you to create more complex firewall rules, giving you greater protection against attacks.
- Granular security controls: Virtualization gives you more granular control over security settings, allowing you to fine-tune protections to match your specific needs.
- Improved malware protection: Virtualization can improve your malware protection by isolating infected machines and preventing them from spreading the infection throughout the network.
- Enhanced monitoring and logging: Virtualization makes it easier to monitor and log network activity, giving you a better understanding of what's happening on your network and helping you respond early to potential threats.
5. Efficient disaster recovery
As we have come to know, disaster can strike at any time, leaving your business vulnerable and in need of a quick solution. With virtualization, you can simplify your disaster recovery plan and get your applications back and running in no time.
Here are five ways virtualization can help you streamline your disaster recovery processes:
- Virtualization allows you to easily create an automated replica of your entire infrastructure, making it easy to roll back to the pre-disaster state.
- You can quickly and easily migrate VMs between hosts, data centers, or even public clouds, giving you the flexibility you need for quick recovery.
- You can run your entire disaster recovery operation from a single console, making it easy to manage and monitor your environment.
- Virtualization allows you to test your disaster recovery plan without affecting your live environment.
- You can easily scale your disaster recovery operation to match the magnitude of disaster, ensuring that you have the resources you need in a timely manner.
By creating VMs, it’s so easy to quickly restore critical applications and data without having to wait for new hardware to be shipped or configured.
6. Virtualization streamlines DevOps
As you know, DevOps is a philosophy and practice that encourages collaboration between development and operations teams to improve the flow of work and achieve common goals. One of the main goals of DevOps is to shorten the feedback loop so that developers can get quick feedback on their work from operations and fix any issues before they become bigger problems.
One of the ways that virtualization can help with this is by allowing developers to quickly spin up test environments that match the production environment. This makes it easy to test and deploy software in a safe, controlled environment without impacting the production environment. It’s a proven way to eliminate surprises.
7. Improved productivity
By running something like multiple virtual servers on a single physical server, you can minimize the amount of time wasted due to hardware maintenance and upgrades. Second, virtual machines allow developers to test applications in a variety of different environments, which can speed up the development process. Third, by using virtualization software you can create 'sandboxes' for testing new code or software without putting it into production. This helps to identify and resolve issues before they cause problems in production.
Companies that have adopted virtualization have witnessed boosted productivity. Fewer resources are needed to accomplish tons of tasks, and more work gets done with minimal interference. Besides, the technology has reduced server sprawl, which occurs when multiple underused servers consume more space and resources without meeting their expected performance.
8. Environmental protection
One way that virtualization contributes to eco-friendly operations is by reducing the need for physical hardware. Virtual machines allow multiple operating systems and applications to run on a single physical machine (host), which cuts down on the amount of equipment required.
In addition, virtualization can reduce power consumption by consolidating workloads onto fewer servers. This not only saves energy, but also reduces cooling costs and helps to prolong the life of hardware. Eliminating frequent need for physical hardware automatically reduces the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfills each year.
9. Multiple operating systems
Virtualization makes it possible to run multiple operating systems, including the host’s system, from the convenience of one physical computer. In other words you are able to use different Operating Systems without worrying about extra physical machines.
There are many benefits to running multiple operating systems. Here are just a few:
- You can use different operating systems for different tasks. For example, you can use Windows for general work tasks and Linux for software development tasks.
- You can try out different operating systems without having to install them on different physical computers.
- You can run different versions of the same operating system. This can be helpful if you're trying to troubleshoot a software issue and need to compare the results.
10. Friendly migration
Migration is a process that is often necessary due to changes in business needs or simply to upgrade hardware and software. When done properly, migration can save you time and money..
These are some of the ways virtualization can make your migration process seamless:
- You can test the migration in a sandbox environment before you make the switch for real.
- You can migrate servers without taking them offline, which minimizes downtime.
- You can clone servers before you make the switch, which makes the migration process much faster.
- You can use live migration to move servers while they're still online and in use.
- You can automate the migration process, making it faster and easier than ever before.
Perhaps this is obvious but it helps to mention that virtualization is actually the foundation of powerful technologies like cloud computing. And while it’s not without some drawbacks – including the need for specialized knowledge – the benefits often outweigh them by far. We should adopt virtualization, not just because it is part of a revolutionary trend but because we understand the long-term benefits of this technology to software companies, clients, the environment, and the entire world.