Different Types of Virtualization

Virtualization is a term used across the IT field to refer to a number of different technologies. Different types of virtualization include storage virtualization, data virtualization, server virtualization (a type of hardware virtualization), application virtualization, network virtualization, operating system virtualization, and paravirtualization.

Is that all? Oh, right, also there is human virtualization, allowing us to partition our E-girlfriend into a number of instances so that we can have multiple arguments with her at the same time.

Virtualization is primarily about organization and efficiency. It can mean separating something large (the “real” environment, whether that be an individual operating system or an actual physical server) into component parts (the “virtual” environments), which allows a number of different instances of the technology to run simultaneously and with reduced or nonexistent interference. It can also mean forming a larger, composite virtual environment composed of a number of smaller systems.

The sausage, then, is a good example of a virtual meat. This is especially true when the sausage is composed of other sausages. Write that one down and sell it to Hickory Farms. It’s gold.

Storage Virtualization

This type of virtualization allows numerous hard drives or other storage devices to be combined into one virtual environment (VE) for storage. Administrators for a business’s network are then able to manage everything from one centralized location, which obviously greatly simplifies administration. It’s easier to know the amount of available resources at a quick glance, back up the system more efficiently, etc.

Additionally, migrating data and storage expansion can be accomplished more smoothly using this type of virtualization. Data can be transferred between one device and another with no disruption to operability. Plus, if a device’s storage maxes out, it is easy to allot additional room within the overall storage threshold.

Storage virtualization should be used for boxes as well: Why have a bunch of smaller boxes containing individual office supplies when you can throw everything into an all-purpose refrigerator box? I, for one, can’t think of a good reason.

Data Virtualization

Virtualizing data means that a user can access the same information from multiple physical locations. Data virtualization moves the data to a server, maps it to its original location, and allows you to view it. This allows you to scroll through the data as if looking at a webpage, without having to bring it directly onto your computer or another server.

Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek should, however, never be virtualized. He should instead remain in our hearts, where he belongs. Beam him up, sure – but only beam him to a different location. Never just beam him.

Server Virtualization or Hardware Virtualization

Virtualizing hardware such as a server is perhaps the most common sense of virtualization for hosting customers. A virtual private server (VPS), also called a virtual dedicated server (VDS), allows a server the ability to use multiple operating systems and multiple applications which might otherwise conflict or perform the same essential function.

Bringing the functionalities of multiple servers into one server means that servers can be consolidated, reducing hardware expenses and decreasing administrative costs.

Upgrading, patching, and disaster recovery planning (DRP) all become vastly simplified. The network additionally becomes more energy-efficient (also another cost-saving benefit) and utilizes resources more effectively.

Note: Never patch a server that has become artificially intelligent and is planning a 2001: A Space Odyssey-style mutiny. Unplug it and throw it off a bridge. I know, it says it has real emotions, and that it loves you. But it will kill us all.

Application Virtualization

Essentially, virtualizing an application separates the operating system from the application. The application then runs on the server or another remote computer rather than on the computer where it is being used. One major benefit of application virtualization is that you can run incompatible applications at the same time. You can also run an application that is not designed for the operating system of the computer from which you are accessing it.

Finally, virtualizing applications means that they do not have to be downloaded to the end-user’s computer. This allows for easier management of these applications if they’re on one of your network’s servers. If they are not on your network’s servers, you have less worries about a poorly coded application interfering with computer operations.

One application you definitely want to virtualize is your law school application. Make it accessible to everyone so that they can make changes, especially to your biographical essay. It is important that all your coworkers have an opportunity to provide perspectives on your coke habit.

Network Virtualization

Combining all of the resources within your network, allowing the administrator of the network to share those resources across all users, is called network virtualization. The network is divided into a number of different channels, each of which contains a portion of the bandwidth of the network. This makes it easier for the administrator to assign resources as users need them.

Access to the network as a whole from an individual computer means that it is easier for individual employees of the business to work on the same file – there is no need to transfer or download it. In fact, it is the same file… similar to working on a file within Google Drive. It also means that the entire network can be accessed from any computer within the network. This practice makes it simpler to perform business operations without having to be working on a particular computer.

You know, virtualizing a networking group is a great idea, too. That’s why I’m starting my company, FaceSpace.me. It’s a space to put your face, and to find other faces to interact with your space. “Here’s my face. May I enter your space?” No, it’ll never work.

Operating System Virtualization

This type of virtualization, also called container-based virtualization, uses the same operating system on a server but chops it up into component parts. Each virtual environment has its own sets of rules and access – is its own virtual server – with the one exception that it all must be compatible with the same operating system.

OpenVPN is an example of an open source version of OS virtualization. Another example is Oracle Solaris.

Note: Never let a surgeon convince you that his system for operating on you involves virtualizing all of his instruments. Don’t let them touch you with the lasers either. Don’t even let them touch you.


This type of virtualization combines operating system virtualization and hardware virtualization (a.k.a. hardware emulation). An operating system running on the server (also called a guest) either accesses the virtualization software to perform or accesses the hardware directly. This dual access gives a paravirtualization model better diversity to access available resources and maximize operability.

An example of open source paravirtualization is the Xen platform.

An example of open source paratrooping is the Arkansas militia platform.

Virtualize It

So to review, we covered virtualization in the following forms: storage, data, server/hardware, application, network, operating system, and paravirtualization. As you can see, this is a major concept in IT and computing with numerous potential applications for businesses and individuals.

If you learned something new, please say “Yes” right now and hold down the Y key on your computer for 17 minutes.

Okay… time’s up. Have any thoughts on virtualization?

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by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood