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    Virtualization software is a digital solution used to create an abstraction layer for hardware. The software creates multiple instances, or virtual machines (VMs), that act as stand-alone computers. This allows users to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on one physical server, saving costs and resources. It also makes it easier for developers and IT professionals to test their applications in different environments without purchasing additional servers.

    What Is Virtualization Software?

    Virtualization software allows users to create multiple instances, or VMs, within a single physical server. VMs are computer systems that operate independently of one another and mimic a stand-alone computer while sharing processing power with other VMs. 

    Virtualization software can cut down on hardware and operating costs by allowing users to consolidate computing power. Additionally, it’s possible to replicate physical servers in a VM environment for backup purposes or as an alternative solution in case of failure. 

    How Does Virtualization Software Work?

    Virtualization software works by breaking down one large computer into multiple smaller ones. These smaller computers—called virtual machines—run virtually, which means they don’t run independently as stand-alone computers do; instead, a host computer oversees their activity.

    Virtual machines are designed to function as separate operating systems. To end users, though, it just looks like one computer. Users get all their programs and other resources from one big pool of items allocated to their account on a host computer. The host computer might be running Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, or other operating systems

    The host computer could even be running several different operating systems at once. That’s one of the benefits of using virtualization software: it lets users use any program without worrying about whether it will work with their hardware setup. 

    When a user creates a new virtual machine, they choose its size, which determines how much memory and processing power it gets, and where to store its hard drive file. Then when users turn on their new virtual machine, it boots up just like any other computer would. 

    Types of Virtualization Software

    Server virtualization

    Server virtualization software converts a single physical server into multiple servers, each running its own operating system. This allows users to host multiple applications on one machine and gives users more control over their hardware. 

    If an enterprise has a lot of applications that need to be hosted on a single machine, server virtualization can save money by reducing hardware costs and energy consumption. 

    Network virtualization

    Network virtualization software supports network resource isolation and controls by using a logical layer. This allows applications to work independently of underlying physical network configurations while also enabling applications to share infrastructure without conflict. By isolating networks into separate domains, or virtual networks, administrators can more easily control access and allocate resources.

    Network virtualization helps reduce network costs by decreasing equipment needs, power consumption, and management complexity. It also reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) of physical assets such as servers, switches, routers, and firewalls.

    Desktop virtualization

    Desktop virtualization allows users to run multiple OSs on one computer. Instead of having separate computers for each OS, users can have multiple instances of Windows or Linux running at once with desktop virtualization. It’s similar to using a multi-boot setup, but it’s easier to manage and less resource-intensive. 

    Users can use desktop virtualization to test different configurations or applications within their environment without fear of affecting other programs or data. 

    The two primary types of desktop virtualization are virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and local desktop virtualization (LDV). VDI allows users to use virtual machines to provide and manage virtual desktops, while LDV lets users run a hypervisor on a local computer to create virtual environments. 

    Application virtualization

    Application virtualization is a type of technology that allows an application to run in a host environment without installation. It enables applications to move from one computer to another via a central server. It also creates a sandbox for testing applications before they are deployed.

    Data center virtualization

    Data center virtualization software is used by data center administrators to design, develop, and deploy a data center infrastructure. The main objective of data center virtualization software is to reduce operational costs and increase the utilization of resources like servers and storage systems. Data center virtualization software also helps to increase flexibility and scalability, which means it can adapt to changes in business demands. 

    Pros of Using Virtualization Software

    • Savings on cost and physical resources: Virtualization software lets users create multiple instances of an operating system by running on a single physical server instead of having to purchase, install, and manage more hardware. 
    • Lightweight and faster speeds: Virtualization software creates lightweight, highly efficient virtual machines for enterprise applications to run on top of existing operating systems. This minimizes demands on each server. 
    • Recovery from failures: Virtualization software allows users to restart failed instances without affecting other instances. Disaster recovery becomes more straightforward with virtualization software since users can easily move instances between physical servers. 
    • Flexibility: Virtualization software offers increased flexibility in terms of how instances are configured and managed compared to traditional physical servers. 

    Cons of Using Virtualization Software

    • High implementation costs: Implementing virtualization software can be expensive, making it harder for smaller companies to take advantage of its benefits. 
    • Complexities of quick scaling: Guaranteeing all of the necessary software, security, storage, and resource availability during a virtualization project is a tedious and time-consuming process.
    • Data risks: Using data virtualization software means enterprise data is hosted on third-party resources, so there is always a risk of lost or compromised data.
    • Learning curve: Virtualization requires tech teams to learn new infrastructure, including hypervisors and management tools, application programming interfaces (APIs), and other connections between applications and virtual machines (VMs). 

    Top Virtualization Software Solutions

    Oracle VirtualBox Oracle Logo

    Oracle VirtualBox is free, open source (FOSS) VM software developed by Oracle. VirtualBox supports many guest operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Linux, Oracle Solaris, and Mac OS X

    Features of Oracle VirtualBox

    • No processor technology requirements: Oracle VM VirtualBox does not require processor technologies like Intel VT-x or AMD-V built into current hardware. Oracle VM VirtualBox can be used on older hardware that lacks these features.
    • Snapshots: Oracle VM VirtualBox can save arbitrary snapshots of the virtual machine’s state.
    • Remote access: The VirtualBox Remote Desktop Extension (VRDE) allows high-performance remote access to any virtual machine. This add-on provides Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) with complete client USB compatibility.
    • Groups: Oracle VM VirtualBox includes a groups feature that allows users to manage and operate virtual machines collectively and individually.
    • Centralized management module: The Oracle VM advanced manager module is available for centralizing the administration of VMs, resources, networking, and storage.

    VMware Fusion VMware Logo

    VMware Fusion is virtual machine software from VMware. It allows users to run Windows, Linux, and other operating systems in a virtual machine on their Macbooks. Users can use it to test out new operating systems without affecting their current setup or use it to run programs that aren’t available for Macs.

    Features of VMware Fusion

    • Memory sharing and efficiencies: VMware Fusion utilizes patented memory-sharing methods to significantly minimize the amount of memory needed to operate multiple virtual machines concurrently.
    • Compatibility with different environments: VMware Fusion can operate virtual machines built using Workstation, vSphere, and other environments that use the ESXi hypervisor.
    • Migration support: VMware Fusion provides a straightforward Windows Migration Assistant that supports customers in migrating their complete PC to their Mac as a virtual machine.

    Red Hat Virtualization Red Hat Logo

    Red Hat Virtualization is an enterprise virtualization platform created by Red Hat. This solution provides a virtual machine monitor, allowing users to run resource-intensive and critical applications in virtual machines isolated on a single server. This solution leverages SPICE and VDSM in tandem with a centralized management server based on RHEL.

    Features of Red Hat Virtualization

    • Automated migration: Red Hat Virtualization enables automated migration from another vendor.
    • Scheduling and policy management: Allows cluster-wide scheduling controls and uses live migration to balance loads depending on the policy.
    • Single sign-on (SSO): It provides support for Kerberos-based SSO.
    • Disaster recovery: Offers native active-passive and active-active disaster recovery capabilities for local and distributed data center deployments.

    Not sure if any of these options are right for your business? Learn about other options for the Best Virtualization Software here.