What is Virtualization, Really?
Virtualization is a surprisingly simple concept…at least in theory. The simple explanation is that you create a virtual version of something that’s generally used for some type of execution. For example, if you were to partition a basic hard drive to create two hard drives, then they would be two ‘virtualized hard drives,’ as the hardware is technically a single hard drive that was digitally separated into two.
The 7 Types of Virtualization
There are 7 primary types of virtualization, and each one differs according to the element it is used on. Each type can also have a different effect on network security.
1. OS Virtualization—aka Virtual Machines
Virtualizing an operating system environment is the most common form of virtualization. It involves putting a second instance or multiple instances of an operating system, like Windows, on a single machine. This empowers businesses to reduce the amount of physical hardware required to run their software by cutting down the number of actual machines. It saves companies cash on energy, cabling, hardware, rack space, and more, while still allowing them to run the same quantity of applications.
2. Application-Server Virtualization
Application-server virtualization is another large presence in the virtualization space, and has been around since the inception of the concept. It is often referred to as ‘advanced load balancing,’ as it spreads applications across servers, and servers across applications. This enables IT departments to balance the workload of specific software in an agile way that doesn’t overload a specific server or underload a specific application in the event of a large project or change. In addition to load balancing it also allows for easier management of servers and applications, since you can manage them as a single instance. Additionally, it gives way to greater network security, as only one server is visible to the public while the rest are hidden behind a reverse proxy network security appliance.
3. Application Virtualization
Application virtualization is often confused with application-server virtualization. What it means is that applications operate on computers as if they reside naturally on the hard drive, but instead are running on a server. The ability to use RAM and CPU to run the programs while storing them centrally on a server, like through Microsoft Terminal Services and cloud-based software, improves how software security updates are pushed, and how software is rolled out.
4. Administrative Virtualization
Administrative virtualization is one of the least-known forms of virtualization, likely due to the fact that it’s primarily used in data centers. The concept of administration, or ‘management,’ virtualization means segmented admin roles through group and user policies. For example, certain groups may have access to read specific servers, infrastructure, application files, and rules, but not to change them.
5. Network Virtualization
Network virtualization involves virtually managing IPs, and is accomplished through tools like routing tables, NICs, switches, and VLAN tags.
6. Hardware Virtualization
Hardware virtualization is one of the rarer forms of virtualization, and when simply explained it is similar to OS virtualization (it is, in fact, often required for OS virtualization). Except, instead of putting multiple software instances on a single machine, chunks of a machine are partitioned off to perform specific tasks.
7. Storage Virtualization
Storage virtualization is an array of servers that are managed by a virtual storage system. The servers aren’t aware of exactly where their data is, and instead function more like worker bees in a hive.