1.1 Introduction to Virtualization

1.1.1 Brief History of Virtualization
1.1.2 Hypervisor

The IT industry's focus on virtualization technology has increased considerably in the past few years. However, the concept has been around much longer, as you can read in the brief history below. This section also provides a high level view of the virtualization technology and methods that exist today, and highlights a number of reasons why organizations are embracing virtualization more and more.

1.1.1 Brief History of Virtualization

The concept of virtualization is generally believed to have its origins in the mainframe days in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when IBM invested a lot of time and effort in developing robust time-sharing solutions. Time-sharing refers to the shared usage of computer resources among a large group of users, aiming to increase the efficiency of both the users and the expensive computer resources they share. This model represented a major breakthrough in computer technology: the cost of providing computing capability dropped considerably and it became possible for organizations, and even individuals, to use a computer without actually owning one. Similar reasons are driving virtualization for industry standard computing today: the capacity in a single server is so large that it is almost impossible for most workloads to effectively use it. The best way to improve resource utilization, and at the same time simplify data center management, is through virtualization.

Data centers today use virtualization techniques to provide abstraction from the physical hardware, create large aggregated pools of logical resources consisting of CPUs, memory, disks, file storage, applications, networking, and offer those resources to users or customers in the form of agile, scalable, consolidated virtual machines. Even though the technology and use cases have evolved, the core meaning of virtualization remains the same: to enable a computing environment to run multiple independent systems at the same time.

1.1.2 Hypervisor

If virtualization is defined as enabling multiple operating systems to run on a single host computer, then the essential component in the virtualization stack is the hypervisor. This hypervisor, also called Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM), creates a virtual platform on the host computer, on top of which multiple guest operating systems are executed and monitored. This way, multiple operating systems, which are either multiple instances of the same operating system, or different operating systems, can share the hardware resources offered by the host.

Hypervisors are commonly classified as one of these two types, as show in Table 1.1, “Hypervisor Types”.

Table 1.1 Hypervisor Types


Characteristics and Description

Type 1: native or bare metal

Native hypervisors are software systems that run directly on the host's hardware to control the hardware, and to monitor the guest operating systems. Consequently, the guest operating system runs on a separate level above the hypervisor. Examples of this classic implementation of virtual machine architecture are Oracle VM, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMWare ESX and Xen.

Type 2: hosted

Hosted hypervisors are designed to run within a traditional operating system. In other words, a hosted hypervisor adds a distinct software layer on top of the host operating system, and the guest operating system becomes a third software level above the hardware. A well-known example of a hosted hypervisor is Oracle VM VirtualBox. Others include VMWare Server and Workstation, Microsoft Virtual PC, KVM, QEMU and Parallels.