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The Future of Virtualisation Technology

by Jason Fletcher (Inverell Office) | Jun 14, 2016

In the world of Virtualisation Technology there many types of technologies available. Depending on your organisation and your network requirements, some of these different types may already exist within your company network. A few of the others you might not even be aware of yet you would use them every day without even knowing it.

So what are virtual machines? To put it simply, a virtual machine is an emulation of a particular computer system. Virtual machines work by emulating specific computer architecture and functions of a real or hypothetical computer. Before we can look at the future of virtualization we are going to have to first look at where we have come and what options are currently available to us. After all, it is this technology that is going to drive the future of virtual machines.

The first type of virtualisation technology that we are going to look at is known as system virtual machines, or full virtualisation. The desire and need to be able to run multiple operating systems within a single machine were the sole drive behind full virtualisation, which actually dates back to the 1960’s and is still an area of active development today. It is this kind of virtualisation that most of you would be running on your network today. Some of the technology that is available that offers this kind of virtualisation is Parallels Workstation, Parallels Desktop for Mac, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, VMware Workstation, and VMware Server. When we set up a full virtualisation environment we have two different types available to us. Type one hypervisor this type of hypervisor runs directly on the hardware. Or type two hypervisor which runs within another operating system, such us Linux or Windows.

You might be asking yourself what is a hypervisor? Well to put it simply a hypervisor is a piece of software, firmware, or hardware that creates and runs the virtual machines. The computer that is running the hypervisor is defined as the host machine, while each virtual machine is called a guest machine. The hypervisor presents the guest operating system with a virtual operating platform that it is able to use, while also managing the execution of the guest operating system.

Now that we have a basic definition of what a hypervisor is let’s take a look at the first type of hypervisor that is available to us. Type one, also known as a native or bare-metal hypervisor, runs directly on the hardware in order to control the hardware and manage all the guest operating systems that are running. A few examples of a type one hypervisor include Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware ESX/ESXi.

Type One Hypervisor

Unlike a type one hypervisor, a type two hypervisor runs within a conventional operating system. Just like any other computer program does. A type two hypervisor abstracts the guest operating system away from the host operating system. A few examples of this type of hypervisor are VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, and QEMU.

Type Two Hypervisor

So what are some of the advantages of this type of virtualisation? Well for one, it allows you to roll out multiple servers on a single host, which has the advantage that it becomes cheaper to build your network. We can also have the advantage that high availability and disaster recovery can become inherent within your network depending on the type of virtualisation software you have selected. What I mean by this is that if we have two physical servers, we can actually set them up as a cluster and share the load between the two. If one server ever goes offline then all the virtual machines on that machine can automatically migrate across to the other host machine without the end user ever noticing anything happened.

So what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of virtualisation?

One advantage is that it can be cost effective. As virtualisation allows you to roll out multiple servers on a single host, it becomes cheaper to build your network.

There is also the advantage that high availability and disaster recovery can become inherent within your network, depending on the type of virtualisation software you have selected. If we have two physical servers, we can set them up as a cluster and share the load between the two. If one server ever goes offline then all the virtual machines on that machine can automatically migrate across to the other host machine without the end user ever noticing anything happened.

That being said, there are a few disadvantages to using virtual machines, depending on your requirements. As we are emulating hardware within software, it is never going to run as fast as the real thing.  There is also the issue that it can increase memory and processor usage that is part of the overhead that is introduced by the virtual machine. Accessing the physical hardware from a guest operating system can also be a little slower.

One potential disadvantage that may arise is dependent on how the system has been setup. If the network hasn’t been setup as a cluster, there is the risk of the whole network being brought down if the host system fails. Depending on the kind of company you are, this could be a major issue. However, as noted in the advantages, we are able to put systems in place that make this a non-issue. Although this does mean the initial setup cost is going to cost more, as it is two servers instead of one, it will ensure your system is safeguarded.

Interested in learning how virtualisation technology can help you with your business? Contact your friendly Dorchester Computing team for help.

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