What is Virtualisation?

Among current IT topics, along with cloud computing, the term "virtualisation" keeps cropping up. Virtual machines are increasingly prominent in data centres, and virtualisation is often referred to as the key and the crucial step on the way to achieving the optimum IT infrastructure for companies of all sizes. But what exactly does it mean? What is virtualisation, and how can it benefit commercial and private users in virtualised IT environments?

Definition and purposes of virtualisation

Virtualisation in IT effectively means the abstraction of physical IT resources (hardware, software, networks) to form virtual components that can be used in the same way as their physical pendants. The same operating systems and applications can run on virtualised hardware as on physical hardware. In addition, it is possible to operate several operating systems in parallel on virtualised hardware. In virtualisation, an abstraction layer is implemented between the user and the actual hardware, separating the two from each other and making the physical conditions invisible to the other side. Users can be duped into thinking that they are the only user of a resource, whereas they are sharing it with several other users. On the other hand, several physically individually extant hardware resources can be combined into one and presented to the user as a homogeneous unit by means of software. All kinds of components of IT systems can be virtualised:

  • Server
  • Storages
  • Applications
  • Desktops
  • complete networks

Purpose of virtualisation

The fundamental purpose of virtualisation is to make better use of the available resources. In many cases, capacity utilisation of hardware systems is very low. It makes sense here to use the resources in parallel for other systems or make them available to other users. Virtualised IT infrastructures run as guest systems on physical hardware and are also referred to as virtual machines (VM). The greater processor utilisation of the individual servers and the more effective allocation of the storage devices achieved as a result of virtualisation means that several virtual machines can share the underlying hardware. Virtualisation is one of the most important requirements for cloud computing, as it forms the basis for scalability of IT resources.

Advantages of virtualisation of IT components

More computing power on fewer computers with better capacity utilisation of available hardware resources = greater efficiency and cost savings. Virtualisation of resources such as storage systems, servers and network structures present numerous advantages. These include: greater capacity utilisation of hardware systems, fast and flexible provision of IT resources, reduced service and administration requirements for hardware, lower investment expenditure for new hardware, and energy savings. As a result, companies that use a virtualised IT infrastructure have significant cost benefits. In addition, virtualisation enables the creation of pre-configured machines that can be relocated more easily and quickly to other physical hardware as required, which is a key aspect in disaster recovery.