Virtualization and cloud computing are terms that are often mistaken as the same concept.

Virtualization is a technology that cloud computing often uses, it is a technology that, removes a computers operating system dependency on the hardware it is running on, and enables the consolidation of many servers onto a single machine.

Let's try to visualise the first concept, removing dependency on hardware. First we need to understand that when a computer operating system is installed onto computer hardware it has to shape itself to fit the shape of the hardware otherwise it does not work correctly. Secondly different types of computers have different shapes so an operating system installed on a HP (see figure 1) cannot be copied to an IBM as it does not fit the hardware’s shape.

When we use virtualization we install a layer of software between the computer’s hardware and operating system call a hypervisor. What this does is create a familiar shape for the operating system regardless of the actual shape of the hardware so we can copy it between computer hardware of different shapes without major problems (see figure 2).

Now the second concept, consolidating many servers onto a single machine. As well as presenting consistent platform for software, virtualization also enables running multiple machines (even of different type) to run on the same computer by sharing the hardware resources. See figure 3.

A virtualized server environment is not suitable for all applications, but where circumstances are appropriate, improvements in hardware utilization plus better backup and recovery systems become possible.



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