The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution

Bertrand Russell

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On 9 Mar 2013

Basic / Introductionary

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Or in the US – virtualization.

Virtualisation enables you to reduce the number of computers and other equipment that you might have, whilst still getting done what you need to.

There are many different types of virtualisation, but desktop computer virtualisation and server virtualisation are the most common. They work by enabling a single computer to do the job of many computers. The single computer will have to work harder. But modern computer hardware has been developed over the decades to be more and more powerful, and so is up to the job.

If you’re reading this page on desktop (or laptop) computer. The computer probably isn’t doing that much. Sure you may have a web-browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome open, with a few tabs to different websites, you may have an email application or Word document open. But your PC isn’t actually be doing that much. Apart from brief bursts of activity, when you open an application, start listening to a song or playing a movie clip, its doing very little apart from providing a display on the screen for you to gaze at.

The chances are that, even if you’re a hardcore multitasker, switching from one application to another, furiously working away; you’re probably not using more that 20% of your computer’s processing power.

So what?

If you run a business, and have a number of computers that you have paid for, and to continue paying for (to power, repair, etc). Then the fact that you have say 5 computers, but they’re only doing the work of 1, should be a concern (or at the very least, viewed as a way of saving some money).

Say you spent £1,000 to buy each computer, and it costs £5 per month to power each one. Over three years, they would have cost you £5,600. Yet you’d only be getting the value of one, which would cost you £1,120. Its a waste of up to £4,480 (potentially even more when you factor in support and other costs).

So if you run lots of computers, the fact that you aren’t using all of their processing power is a waste. A waste that can be saved.

How does virtualisation work?

Its all done by software. Not all virtualisation software works in the same way, but most work as follows…

The device that’s enabling you to read this article is just a piece of hardware (be it a desktop PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone or whatever). What lets that piece of hardware be able to do something useful for you is its Operating System (its OS – so for a desktop or laptop machine, for example, you could be running Windows, or Ubuntu, or Apple’s OS X). When you start your computer in order to be able to do something useful, its the Operating System that you need to start up. Its the OS that provides the little computer world in which you can then run applications such as your web browser.

When you have multiple separate computers running, they provide multiple separate Operating System instances or platforms on which you can run different applications. One OS for each computer, each providing their own little world or sand pit in which you or other users can do stuff.

So, if your machine could start up numerous copies of an Operating System, that would enable you to have multiples worlds in which to do stuff. That is the premise of virtualisation. By allowing one machine to deliver multiple Operating System platforms, its effectively working as if it were multiple machines.

One physical machine is providing multiple virtual machines.

The article is meant to understandable by all!
If you have trouble following any of it please post a comment at the bottom, and I’ll endeavour to improve it.

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