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Virtualization Technology

I have been hearing about this term called “Virtualization” for some time now, from the media and at several technical events. Let’s try to understand what does it really mean? I would like to start of with this definition on virtualization given in Wikipedia.

In computing, virtualization is the process of presenting a logical grouping or subset of computing resources so that they can be accessed in ways that give benefits over the original configuration. This new virtual view of the resources is not restricted by the implementation, geographic location or the physical configuration of underlying resources. Commonly virtualized resources include computing power and data storage.

A new trend in virtualization is the concept of a virtualization engine which gives an overall holistic view of the entire network infrastructure by using the aggregation technique.

Another popular kind of virtualization, and currently very referred to in the media, is the hardware virtualization for running more than one operating system at the same time, via nanokernels or Hardware Abstraction Layers, such as Xen.

The following extract is from an IBM whitepaper on Virtualization. The extract talks about the need for virtualization and the meaning of virtualization:

Tight budgets, limited resources and short deadlines are a fact of life. That may be the reason why insightful IT analysts have recommended virtualization technology as an effective method to improve utilization rates, increase server flexibility and reduce IT spending. Simply put, virtualization technology is a way to pool IT resources while masking the physical attributes and boundaries of the resources from users of the resources, which can result in providing customers with the important advantages listed above. Although virtualization is not a new technology, it is receiving a lot of attention. Much of this renewed interest can be attributed to non-mainframe environments. Other platforms have recently realized the benefits of virtualization and are starting to develop and deploy forms of mainframe-inspired partitioning and virtualization to enhance their environments and remain competitive.

So as I understand it, Virtualization is a broad term that refers to the abstraction of resources in many different aspects of computing. Let’s talk more about the third kind of virtualization, which is hardware virtualization, which will enable us to run more than one operating system at the same time.

Let’s understand that virtualization is a concept and there are different players like IBM, Sun Microsystems, VMware etc.; who have come up with virtualization solutions and of course Microsoft is also a key player now in this space.

Earlier it used to be software-only virtual machine solutions, but now the hardware players like Intel and AMD have started supporting virtualization at a hardware level, with processor and I/O enhancements to support virtualization. Given below is an extract which talks about Intel Virtualization Technology:

Virtualization enhanced by Intel Virtualization Technology will allow a platform to run multiple operating systems and applications in independent partitions. With virtualization, one computer system can function as multiple “virtual” systems. With processor and I/O enhancements to Intel’s various platforms, Intel Virtualization Technology can improve the performance and robustness of today’s software-only virtual machine solutions.

Intel Virtualization Technology is a set of hardware enhancements to Intel server and client platforms that can improve virtualization solutions.

 

Intel Virtualization Technology will provide a foundation for widely-deployed virtualization solutions

 

Intel Virtualization Technology-based Virtualization under development by leading providers of virtualization infrastructure

Intel Virtualization Technology forms the foundation of a roadmap of Intel technologies focused on improved virtualization and safer computing

 

 

Provides headroom for more robust hardware-assisted virtualization solutions:

When combined with the right software Intel Virtualization Technology can improve the reliability and supportability of virtualization solutions, enabling improved consolidation and fail-over for servers

For client platforms, Intel Virtualization Technology helps optimized software provide a foundation for highly available and more secure client virtualization partitions

 

 

Intel platforms supporting Intel Virtualization Technology started shipping in 2005 for desktop and 2006 for mobile platforms and Intel® Xeon® processor-based servers and workstations.

Later in 2006, Intel® Itanium® processor-based servers supporting Intel Virtualization Technology will start shipping

 

 

Now let’s understand what Microsoft is doing to realize this concept of virtualization. Microsoft is working to ease customer adoption of virtualization technology and enable customers to begin realizing the promise of self-managing dynamic systems by offering powerful, reliable, and free virtualization solutions. Microsoft virtualization solutions include Virtual Server 2005, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and Virtual PC 2004.

  • Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 – Can be used to create and run your virtual infrastructure—powerful technology from Microsoft allows you to consolidate applications and environments.
  • Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 – Can be used to run multiple operating systems within the virtual environment—respond to IT needs faster by easily switching between virtual machines.
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Can be used to manage your diverse infrastructure and data center—increase efficiency through rapid provisioning of new virtual machines.

Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 is now free! – A clear strategy to encourage the use of virtualization solutions to get the best out of the existing hardware, by providing the capability to run multiple operating systems within the same virtual environment, thus decreasing the hardware procurement and maintenance cost to a great extent.

Hope this entry has given you a brief idea about the concept of virtualization. At least I now have some idea about virtualization and I am sure in the near future we will see new and powerful virtualization solutions and hardware that would support such solutions in the market.

References:

http://www.intel.com/technology/computing/vptech/ http://www-03.ibm.com/servers/eserver/zseries/library/whitepapers/pdf/virtualization_thought_leadership.pdf http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/virtualization/default.mspx

 

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