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The Difference Between Server and Desktop Virtualization?

Server virtualization and desktop virtualization can be a confusing topic if you don't know the inherent differences between the two virtualization technologies.

Server virtualization and desktop virtualization can be a confusing topic if you don't know the inherent differences between the two virtualization technologies.  In computing, virtualization means "to create a virtual version of a device or resource," however many computing devices and technologies can be virtualized, including a server, desktop, storage, network, or even an operating system. This article defines two of the most common virtualization technologies: server virtualization and desktop virtualization, and explains the differences between them.

Server Vs Desktop Virtualization

What is Server Virtualization?

Server virtualization is defined as the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers. In server virtualization the resources of the server itself are hidden (or masked) from users. Software is used to divide the physical server into multiple virtual environments, called virtual or private servers. One common usage of this technology is in Web servers. Virtual Web servers are a very popular way of providing low-cost web hosting services. Instead of requiring a separate computer for each server, dozens of virtual servers can co-reside on the same computer.

Key Terms to Know

Common Ways to Create a Virtual Server

There are several ways to create a virtual server, with the most common being;

virtual machine: A self-contained operating environment that behaves as if it is a separate computer.

operating system-level virtualization: A type of server virtualization technology which works at the OS layer. The physical server and single instance of the operating system is virtualized into multiple isolated partitions, where each partition replicates a real server.

paravirtual machine:  A virtual machine mode in which operating systems do not require complete emulation of hardware devices.

Benefits of Server Virtualization

Server virtualization has many benefits. For example, it lets each virtual server run its own operating system and each virtual server can also be independently rebooted of one another. Server virtualization also reduces costs. First, less hardware is required so that alone saves a business money. It also utilizes resources to the fullest so it can also save on operational costs (e.g. using a lower number of physical servers reduces hardware maintenance). Server virtualization is also important for data centers. It increases the data center's space utilization efficiency and promotes energy efficiency through reduced energy consumption and a reduction in server room heat -- thereby lowering cooling costs.

Desktop Virtualization Defined

Desktop virtualization, sometimes referred to as client virtualization, is defined as a virtualization technology that is used to separate a computer desktop environment from the physical computer. Desktop virtualization is considered a type of client-server computing model because the virtualized desktop is stored on a centralized, or remote, server and not the physical machine being virtualized. 

Desktop virtualization "virtualizes desktop computers" and these virtual desktop environments are "served" to users on the network.  Users interact with a virtual desktop in the same way that a physical desktop is accessed and used. Another benefit of desktop virtualization is that is lets you remotely log in to access your desktop from any location.

One of the most popular uses of desktop virtualization is in the data center, where personalized desktop images for each user is hosted on a data center server.

Common Types of Virtual Desktops

VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure -- or Interface) is a popular method of desktop virtualization. This type of desktop virtualization uses the server computing model, as the desktop virtualization in this scenario is enabled through hardware and software. VDI hosts the desktop environment in a virtual machine (VM) that runs on a centralized or remote server.

There are also options for using hosted virtual desktops, where the desktop virtualization services is provided to a business through a third-party. The service provider will provide the managed desktop configuration, security, and storage-area network.

Benefits of Desktop Virtualization

Desktop virtualization offers advantages over computers operating as individual units as each virtual desktop will not require its own hardware, operating system and software. Also, using desktop virtualization lower cost of deploying applications and will reduce downtime in the event of a server or hardware failure.




Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal is a freelance writer, covering business and Internet technology for more than a decade. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.





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