Virtual Machine aka VM: What is a Virtual Machine?

how to virtual machine

What is a Virtual Machine? Or for those that keep searching “How to virtual machine?”

Interesting question….Virtual machines are created by virtualization software such as: VMware vSphere, VirtaulBox, XenServer, and others virtualization software. They account for a majority of servers in the world, and a fast growing number of desktops used in business today. This point also factors in all the virtual private servers (VPS) being built in the “Cloud” by Amazon, RackSpace and other Cloud service providers.

The technology used to create a Virtual Machine, aka VM, has become highly sophisticated over the last 5 years. The reason being – it allows the optimization of robust server and desktop hardware which is currently on the market to be leveraged and cuts cost in a number of ways.

For example, even base server models from Dell, HP or IBM can be leveraged and turned into 3 – 5 well performing virtual machines. This relates to a 5:1 ratio on base hardware and the density ratio goes up as more memory, CPUs and disk space are added to hardware configurations.

Is it Real or Virtual Machine?

Basically a VM is a software version of a physical server which is why they are called “virtual” – kind of like virtual reality but for a server.

Using VMware technology an operating system with a software known as a hypervisor (VMM or virtual machine manager) is installed on the physical server. In VMware’s case this product is called ESXi 5 (their current version of hypervisor), then using the vCenter which is a GUI management console, or just the VIC (virtual Infrastructure client) you can carve your physical server into one or more virtual machines that consist of a portion of the physical resources (Kind of like cutting a pie into 5 pieces). These VMs have allocated to them a portion of the: memory, cpu and disk space; these resources are a virtual representation of the physical server which shows up as a group of files.

The cool thing about virtual machines is that they are real servers that can be loaded with server or desktop operating systems just like a physical server and desktop.

Virtualization Advancements

Virtual technology has advanced to the point where most major businesses now have a large portion of their production servers running on virtual machines.

For example, when you visit your online bank, college website or email, you’re no-doubt accessing your account information through an application that is running on a VM.

Virtual machines are everywhere and have been expanding their presence since VMware released their first version of hypervisor software back in the 90’s. I have no doubt that someone was creating virtual machines before that but VMware was the first software to become a hit and Microsoft followed with their virtual server products, which was followed by XenSource that was packaged in Linux releases.

As of this post, VMware has been purchased by EMC, Microsoft has discontinued virtual server and replace it with Hyper-V, and Xen has been purchased by Citrix and rebranded XenServer.

Also, there are other newcomers that offer virtual machine creation, a popular one is VirtualBox which was open source until recently when it was scooped up by Oracle.

Virtual Machines Invading Our Homes

Like I said, virtual machines are everywhere and they are even invading our home PCs. Many Techies today are running virtual machines on their PC or MACs. This offers the ability to run various OS versions for testing or evaluating software at the same time straight from the good old home PC. An example of this would be running Windows 7 on a MAC at the same time and being able to switch between both operating systems with a keystroke.

Tip of the Virtual Iceberg

This post only covers the tip of the iceberg about virtual machines. Other related topics covered on VMInstall are: Swap Files, Naming Convention, Free Tools for Managing VMs, Best Practices and many others…

Here’s a List of Virtualization Software links so you can Download Free or Trial software and started learning how to deploy virtual machines.

Video #1 – How to Set Up and Use A Virtual Machine for Free – VirtualBox by Quesomanrulz

Video #2 – How to Install Windows on a MAC using Virtualbox by ClockworkPC

I hope this post has helped you understand what a virtual machine is? I recommend you checkout these free virtual machine software products, too. Please leave me your comments and feedback….Thanks

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