Hardware virtualization is the process of turning physical hardware, like hard drives and processors, into virtual devices that can be accessed over a network. To understand why virtualization is valuable, we must look at the scale at which businesses and organizations are now using computing hardware. According to a Computer Economics study, in 2020, businesses that made over $50 million in revenue spent an average of 2.6% of that revenue on their technology budget. Businesses are eager to see a return on this sizable investment. This is where virtualization comes in. It allows businesses to unify IT assets and balance them based on usage — improving the productivity of every piece of hardware. What is driving this reliance on computing infrastructure?
Modern Computing Requires More Computing ResourcesMore accessible data and AI capabilities have expanded the hardware needs of businesses across every industry, and with that, they’ve had to learn how to optimize their use of computing resources quickly. Some fields, like AI and ML, are dealing with the same problem on an even greater scale. Hardware virtualization helps businesses maximize the value they can extract from their IT infrastructure. How? Hardware virtualization allows organizations to easily share resources between departments and allocate them based on usage patterns. Additionally, because virtualization converts physical hardware into virtual hardware, it’s easier to perform data analytics that can help optimize future purchases and the allocation of resources. For example, with physical hardware, resource allocations are fixed based on estimated needs. However, when needs change, it’s difficult to redistribute computing resources. Since hardware virtualization treats all of our hardware as a single system, resources can be easily redistributed, giving teams access to needed resources without expanding your IT infrastructure.
The Function and Benefits of Hardware VirtualizationVirtualization uses virtual machine software to embed an operating system directly into the hardware components. This software is typically called virtual machine manager (VMM) or hypervisor. Resources can then be viewed as independent of the underlying hardware and be easily combined with other hardware resources. The effect is what appears to be a single large server, or multiple larger servers, although they are leveraging resources from many different machines. Hypervisor technology also leverages command set extensions within the processors, speeding up virtualization activities and boosting performance. Thus, hardware-assisted virtualization greatly increases system performance and its ability to host multiple VMs. Other benefits of hardware virtualization include:
- The ability to migrate applications while the system is live, also known as live migration
- Admins can better perform load balancing since all users are pulling from a pool of virtual hardware instead of disconnected physical servers
- Improved cybersecurity and reliability since an attack on a virtual machine or its failure is isolated from other virtual machines