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Virtualization Explained

Virtualization is the process by which various elements of computational environment are abstracted for reasons of simplification of maintenance and management of a complex IT environment.  There are various types of virtualization from the application, to hosted virtualization to server virtualization where the server operating system runs inside of a virtual machine.   For purposes of this discussion, we will focus on the use and creation of virtual machines.  With this type of virtualization, the computational resources that are typically find in hardware such as memory, storage, processors and other internal hardware are simulated in a software environment and stored as files called virtual machines or VMs  .   The Virtual Machines interact with the actual underlying hardware or the host through a virtualization software layer often referred to as hypervisor.   This software regulates the monitoring and allocation of physical hardware resources to the individual VM instances.  Therefore, a virtualization environment enables the IT personnel to flexibly provide and manage individual operating system instances on the same physical hardware resources, or multiple hardware resources.  The hypervisor operating system or “host”, can simultaneously accommodate multiple “guest” virtual machines performing various roles in the given IT environment.   Given that most traditional Server and Client PC hardware is only utilized to only a fraction of their capacity 5% to 25% at most.  Virtualization not only simplifies management, but provides an opportunity to utilize the hardware infrastructure more fully and more efficiently.

Virtual Desktop

Virtual Machines or VMs are commonly used in modern enterprise IT departments for running various server operating systems for the reasons outlined in the previous sections.  However, running desktop operating system in virtualization environment has been a challenge especially in small and medium sized business for various reasons.   For one, some sort of terminal is still required for a user to connect to their Virtual Machine running their Windows desktop.  This terminal can be a PC which still needs management of the underlying hardware and operating system, a self-defeating proposition. Next, this model requires constant connectivity to the server and for a lot of users that were mobile WAN or VPN connectivity was less prevalent.  Furthermore, the amount of bandwidth needed to successfully stream an emulated PC to a terminal has not always been readily available or has been more costly than managing the underlying desktop. However, with recent changes in the virtualization technology virtual desktop adaptation is increasing.   The reasons are that the hypervisor software has improved and it provides improved performance, hardware such as zero-clients requires little or no management, and network connectivity is more readily available with more affordable bandwidth.  Current virtual desktops provide the end user with an experience virtually identical to their existing physical PC; the VM preserves their own files, settings and personal preferences just like a PC.   Users typically connect to their VM  instance through a zero-client or their own personal PC.  Their VM is hosted in a datacenter which is managed by either in-house or outsourced IT staff.  This strategy of centralizing the management of IT resources allows for the IT manager to increasing security, reliability, flexibility of the environment,  and at the same time decreasing IT management burdens and cost.  

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