Understanding Virtual Machines: A Beginner’s Guide


Virtual machines are a powerful tool for computing that allows for efficient resource utilization, cost savings, and flexibility. If you’re not entirely sure on how a virtual machine works, then you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what a virtual machine is, how it operates, and key benefits.

What is a Virtual Machine? 

A virtual machine (VM) is a software emulation of a physical computer system to run programs and deploy apps. It allows you to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. Essentially, one or more virtual machines (guest machines) run a physical machine (host machine). 

Each virtual machine is independently operates with its own virtual hardware and operation, allowing for isolation and flexibility. Commonly used in server environments, virtual machines optimize resource virtualization and provide a cost-effective solution for running multiple applications or services. 

How Do Virtual Machines Work? 

Virtual machines work by using software, known as a Hypervisor, to emulate the hardware and functionality of a physical computer system. The hypervisor essentially creates a layer of abstraction between the physical hardware and virtual machines. This allows for multiple machines to run on a single physical machine. Furthermore, each of those single machines has its own virtual hardware and operating system. 

When virtual machines is made, it distributes a portion of the physical machine’s compute resources. These resources include the memory, storage, network, and CPU. To ensure that each VM is operates efficiently, the hypervisor manages the resources. The virtual machine can then run applications and services, just like a physical computer system does. Moreover, it will be able to connect to networks, access storage, and interact with the other virtual machines. 

What are Virtual Machines Used For?

Virtual machine software runs programs and operating systems, store data, connect to networks, and more computing functions. They are basically building blocks of virtualized computing resources and playing a vital role in the creation of an application, tool, or environment. Whether it be online or on-premise virtual machines, here are some examples of the enterprise functions

  • Consolidate Servers – Virtual machines are set up servers that host other virtual machines. This allows businesses to concentrate more resources onto a physical machine rather than multiple. 
  • Create Development and Test Environments – Virtual machines serve as isolated environments for testing and development. This includes full functionality but does not impact the surrounding infrastructure.
  • Support DevOps – To provide maximum flexibility for development, a virtual machine is easily turned off or on, migrated, and adapted depending on your needs. 
  • Enable Workload Migration – By using virtual machines to replicate systems in a cloud environment provides an extra layer of security. Additionally, this allows for cloud environments to be continuously updated. 
  • Improve Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity – The flexibility and portability that virtual machines provide are essential for increasing the velocity of migration initiatives.
  • Create a Hybrid Environment – Lastly, a virtual machine provides the foundation for creating a cloud environment alongside an on-premises one. As a result, it allows for flexibility without abandoning legacy systems.

Benefits of Virtual Machines

From resource utilization to disaster recovery, virtual machines are easy to manage and maintain in comparison to physical machines. Here are 6 key benefits to using virtual machines for your business: 

  1. Resource Utilization – For starters, virtual machines allow for the efficient use of physical hardware resources by running multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine. As a result, it helps with maximizing the utilization of resources such as the CPU, storage, and memory. 
  2. Cost savings – Businesses can save on hardware costs by consolidating multiple virtual machines onto a single physical machine. With fewer physical machines running, it also helps to save on energy costs. 
  3. Isolation – Each virtual machine operates independently, which provides isolation and security. In the event that one machine fails or experiences issues, it will not affect the other virtual machines or the host machine. 
  4. Flexibility – Virtual machines provide flexibility in running multiple operating systems and applications on a single physical machine. This is especially beneficial for developers and testers that are testing their software on different operating systems or configurations. 
  5. Migration and Scalability –  Since virtual machines are easily migrated between physical machines, it allows for flexibility in resource allocation and workload balancing. In regard to scalability, you can also add or remove them as needed. 
  6. Disaster Recovery – Lastly, virtual machines can be backed up and restored easily. This  makes them an ideal solution for disaster recovery. In the event where there is hardware failure or other disasters, you can quickly store virtual machines on another physical machine.

What is Virtualization? 

Depending on your specific use case, the components of a traditional data center or IT infrastructure can be virtualized. The virtualization process is primarily used to simultaneously run multiple operating systems on the same hardware system. Virtualized technology can be used to obtain the functionality of different types of physical infrastructure, along with benefits of a virtualized environment. But what are the different virtualization types? 

The Different Types of Virtualization

The different types of virtualization technology are server virtualization, storage virtualization, application virtualization, desktop virtualization, and network virtualization. 

Hardware Virtualization

When virtualizing hardware, virtual versions of computers and operating systems are created and consolidated into a single physical server. To manage the virtual machines, the hypervisor communicates with a physical server’s disk space and CPU. Hardware virtualization, or server virtualization, allows hardware resources to be utilized efficiently.

Software Virtualization

Software virtualization creates a computer system complete with hardware that allows one or more guest operating systems to run on a physical host machine. You can virtualize and deliver applications from a server to an end user’s device, such as a phone or laptop. This allows individuals to access centrally hosted applications when working remotely. 

Storage Virtualization

Storage virtualization consolidates multiple physical storage devices to appear as a single storage device. This increases performance and speed, load balancing and reduces costs. Since the virtual storage data can be duplicated and quickly transferred to another location, it reduces downtime and helps with disaster recovery.  

Network Virtualization

A computer network includes hardware elements such as switches, routers, and firewalls. When it comes to businesses with multiple locations, it will have different network technologies to create its enterprise network. Simply put, network virtualization combines these resources to centralize administrative tasks. As a result, admins are able to adjust and control these elements virtually.

Desktop Virtualization

Desktop virtualization separates the desktop environment from the physical device and stores a desktop on a remote server. This  allows users to access their desktops from anywhere on any device. Along with easy accessibility, the benefits of virtual desktops include better data security, cost savings on software licenses and updates, and ease of management. 

In conclusion, each type of virtualization has its own unique features and benefits. Businesses will be able to select the virtualization type that best suits their specific needs and requirements.

Testing on Virtual Machines or Real Devices

Developers and testers will either test on virtual machines or physical devices when developing apps, software, and websites to work across a wide array of electronic devices. When testing on virtual machines, they are able to monitor how the software is performing on a specific device. However, a virtual machine limits the type of hardware simulation that is available for testing. This mean that results from virtual machines are not always consistent or reliable 

In comparison to virtual machines, testing on real devices allows them to accurately monitor software performance. Instead of receiving a false positive through a simulator, they will be able to immediately catch errors before deployment. 

For those who prefer to test on real devices, our Modular Rack Shelf supports multiple devices on a single shelf with flexible bracket options depending on your testing needs. We provide a variety of brackets for mobile devices, home entertainment, computers, accessories, and more. When setting up a homelab with this rack shelf, you will be able to maximize space, organize multiple devices, and increase density and scalability with flexible bracket options.

modular shelf for test devices
Modular Shelf For Test Devices

RackSolutions Server Racks and Cabinets   

Our server racks are compatible with all leading OEM servers and equipment, such as Dell, HP and IBM/Lenovo. Whether you need a single server rack or multiple, we provide a variety of server racks, cabinets, and rack accessories that are ready to order.

If you have any questions about our server racks and cabinets, feel free to contact us for more information. With our high-quality, in house manufacturing, you can be confident that you are buying the best equipment possible!


FAQs: Virtual Machines

What is a hypervisor?   

A hypervisor is a virtual machine monitor (VMM), a software component allowing multiple operating systems to simultaneously run on a single server. It acts as an intermediary layer between the physical hardware and the virtual machines. Hypervisors provide the necessary virtualization capabilities and maximize the effective use of computing resources. These resources include the CPU, GPU, memory, storage space, and network bandwidth. 

What is infrastructure as a service (IaaS)? 

Iaas stands for Infrastructure as a Service. IaaS is a type of cloud computing service that offers essential compute, storage, and networking resources on demand. Essentially it is a pay-as-you-go basis. IaaS is one of the four types of cloud services, along with software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and serverless. 

What is data center virtualization? 

Data center virtualization is a technology that allows businesses to optimize their data centers by creating virtual versions of their physical infrastructure. It is the transfer of physical data centers into virtual data centers. Businesses are able to create virtual versions of physical infrastructure such as servers, storage devices, and networking equipment. In comparison to on-premise infrastructures, this allows you to remotely access information and applications.

What are emulators and simulators? 

During the early stages of mobile app developments, developers and testers can use emulators and simulators for rapid prototyping, mockups, and unit testing. When testing on virtual machines, they can monitor how the software is performing on a specific device. In comparison to real device testing, virtual testing mimics real devices and creates a virtual mobile device on a computer. 

Understanding Virtual Machines: A Beginner’s Guide
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Understanding Virtual Machines: A Beginner’s Guide
A virtual machine (VM) is a software emulation of a physical computer system to run programs and deploy apps. It allows you to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. Essentially, one or more virtual machines (guest machines) run a physical machine (host machine).
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