A quick search on Google might talk about virtualization in cloud computing as two different things, but in reality, these are basically the same thing.
When you ‘virtualize,’ you’re splitting a physical hard-drive into multiple, smaller parts. That way, you can run multiple operating systems (OS) off the same computer. You’ve probably seen folks run Windows on macOS as a guest operating system — that’s an example of virtualization.
Cloud computing is simply virtualization on an epic scale. You’re now taking millions of virtual machines, and forcing them to run many different environments for hundreds of millions of users across the world.
You can’t have cloud computing without virtualization.
What is Virtualization in Cloud Computing?
As we noted above, there’s no cloud computing without virtualization.
Think of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Under AWS, Amazon simply stands-up and virtualizes computing hardware (physical servers).
In turn, Amazon rents out the resulting CPU, RAM, etc., as computing resources to businesses — e.g., organizations deploying cloud-native applications, among others.
How Virtualization Works in Cloud Computing
Let’s try understanding how AWS (or GCP, Azure, etc.) work. You start with your physical host machine. Next, you use a virtual manager to ‘separate’ the physical hardware (i.e., the silicon or bare metal) to make emulated computing resources. You then sell the emulated resources.
So if you were an AWS customer, you would rent the emulated RAM, CPU, etc. to drive your application.
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Virtualization Concepts in Cloud Computing
You can use virtualization and the cloud in a variety of ways, such as:
Basically, instead of assigning one compute task to one server (and leave lots of underused resources), you run multiple tasks from one server. In AWS’ case, it’s selling resources from
one server to numerous businesses.
Likewise, you can save on hardware costs by virtualizing your on-premise servers and, in turn, run multiple desktops, applications, etc., on them.
With network virtualization, you can create multiple individual networks from one physical local area network (LAN). In terms of the cloud, you’re looking at trying to create an ‘online’ network without connecting to the public internet (i.e., virtual private cloud).
Storage virtualization involves ‘grouping’ or ‘pooling’ multiple physical data storage devices into one view, even if those devices are from different vendors, data centers, etc. By virtualizing, you can examine your disparate storage assets as though they were one single resource.
Desktops were among the first things people virtualized. The basic idea is that you can give someone an entire computing platform without the hardware.
In practical terms, think of letting someone run full Windows 10 through an iPad. The iPad itself can’t (or won’t) run Windows 10, but the server you’re iPad is speaking to can run Windows.
With application virtualization, you’re running an application on a computer, but without relying on the computer’s hardware or software.
Returning to the iPad example; you may not be able to run full Photoshop on the iPad directly. But you can get the iPad to speak to a Windows-based server running full Photoshop and, in turn, use your iPad to access Photoshop.
An upcoming evolution of this is cloud-based console gaming. So again, you can use an iPad, iPhone, etc., to play full console games by relying on a server with enough power to run them.
Benefits of Virtualization
The common thread with each of these virtualization concepts is cutting your dependency on the underlying hardware.
To be clear, you still need the hardware! However, with cloud and virtualization, if one server goes down, that doesn’t mean your entire application goes down with it.
Instead, with technology such as load balancing, hypervisors, etc., you create a ‘gap’ between the hardware and software. So if some hardware fails, your software (and data, websites, etc.) can live on by drawing on other hardware. It’s an effective process of creating redundancies.
The key to leveraging cloud-based virtualization is combining hardware with strong cloud-native development experience. Otherwise, you’ll always be a few steps behind the technology trends.
Tips on Accelerating Your Cloud Development Efforts:
- What Does Application Modernization Mean?
- Strategies to Modernize Legacy Applications
- Grasping Software Architecture: Monolithic vs. Microservices
- The Advantages and Disadvantages of Microservices
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