As virtualization and cloud projects explode, IT professionals are making monitoring and management a top priority – for IT reliability and business service levels. Virtualization is a technology that allows resources to be shared by a variety of physical outlets. When you read about virtualization today, much of the content focuses on the relatively new concept of server virtualization. While this drives much of the innovation (and revenue) around virtualization today, there are a multitude of virtualization schemes addressing a spectrum of applications. Let's begin with a quick introduction of virtualization to set the stage for the following exploration.
From this definition, we could categorize many things as virtualization that have historically not been so (such as early time sharing systems). Virtualization enables dynamically provisionable infrastructure (servers, storage, networking bandwidth, etc.) while also making it much simpler to manage.
Let's start with the most prolific aspect of virtualization, called platform virtualization. The users here are called virtual machines, which is an aggregation of the operating system and application set. Both are useful styles, but type-1 hypervisors are commonly used for server virtualization, where type-2 is used for desktop- or laptop-based virtualization.
Additionally, the virtual machine (VM) uses a wrapper that specifies the requirements and constraints for the VM. The VM as a file in a host system (hypervisor) has some interesting benefits as well as some unique issues.
When a VM isn't running (inactive), it exists as a file in storage and can't actively be managed for patches or software updates.
As you would expect with any popular technology, there are a variety of ways in which virtualization can be achieved. Full virtualization provides a sufficient emulation of the underlying platform that a guest operating system and application set can run unmodified and unaware that their platform is being virtualized. The device emulation must also emulate that device's idiosyncrasies, making this style very costly from a performance perspective.
While full virtualization comes with a performance penalty, the technique permits running unmodified operating system, which is ideal, particularly when source is unavailable such as with proprietary operating systems. To realize the full performance benefit of platform virtualization, another technique was created, called para-virtualization The fundamental issue with full virtualization is the emulation of devices within the hypervisor. In this way, the guest OS drivers and hypervisor drivers integrate with one another to efficiently enable and share physical device access.
Using VMware hypervisors, you'll find the introduction of guest tools (which dynamically modify the guest OS). Traditionally, emulators were viewed as inefficient because they mimicked the execution of instructions for a guest through a number of instructions in the host. This style of virtualization goes well beyond the simple abstraction for sharing, and instead creates new capabilities.
This is an extremely useful style of virtualization, particularly from a development perspective. Given the powerful capabilities provided by emulation, it's not surprising that partial answers have been found for the performance issues that exist. QEMU also includes portions of a compiler to optimize code generation for a given platform. Solutions that implement emulation include Bochs (specifically for x86-based platforms) and QEMU, which supports a number of host platforms and implements a variety of target platforms.


Emulation solves a variety of interesting problems outside of traditional platform virtualization. The computer history simulation project has developed a multi-system simulator called SIMH, similar to the QEMU, but focused on historically significant computer hardware. Another intellectually interesting project under digital preservation is the Virtual AGC (Apollo Guidance Computer).
Operating system virtualization is an interesting form of virtualization that is highly efficient, while providing the basic elements of virtualization. The technique is used regularly in virtual hosting scenarios, primarily because of its lightweight nature. Note here that this is more than just segregated processes but instead a complete user-space (with its own pid space, and unique identifiers for all shareable elements).
While providing the necessary capabilities for virtualization, the technique also provides more advanced features that were typically found only in full platform virtualization. The downside of OS virtualization is that since the kernel is visible to the isolated user-spaces, all must rely on the same kernel (version, configuration, services available, etc.).
Some of the solutions that implement OS virtualization today include Linux VServer, OpenVZFreeBSD Jail, and a variety of proprietary solutions. Application virtualization is a relatively new name in the virtualization space, but has been around in various forms for quite a while.
This can be done to make an application believe that a legacy platform is available to it (with underlying services which may no longer be available).
This technique of virtualization is becoming more popular and interesting because of its lightweight nature. We can also think about application virtual machines (such as JVM, Adobe Flash, and CLR) as application virtualization.
Desktop virtualization, similar to application virtualization, is another technology that has existed in some form for some time, but is now becoming more popular. Since the desktop exists as a VM on a server in a rack of servers, the only way to interact with the desktop is by extending the desktop across a network to the user.
Protocols that provide VDI include the traditional Virtual Network Computing (VNC) which is primarily used for X windows environments, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) from Microsoft, Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) from Citrix, and PC-over-IP (PCoIP) developed by Teredici.
As virtual machines are aggregated onto a physical machine, it's not unlikely that they will communicate with one another. In addition to virtual NICs, it's also possible to assign them to virtual switches to isolate traffic within the virtual networking layer of a hypervisor. For best performance, integrating support for virtualization directly into the hardware is ideal.
The x86 instruction set turned out not to be ideal for virtualization based upon some of the privileged instructions. Intel (VT-x) and AMD (AMD-V) provide hardware assists for virtualization, and can additionally more efficiently transition between VMs and the hypervisor using special instructions. Hardware-assisted virtualization is useful in full and para-virtualized scenarios and is exploited by all major hypervisor solutions. Much like virtualization of a platform, virtualization of storage provides equally interesting benefits. Let's explore some of the ways that storage is virtualized, and the benefits and services that it brings. From a SAN perspective, we can think about the abstraction from the user perspective (LUNs presented to a user, and the respective block mappings) and from the physical storage perspective (enclosures of drives with front-end servers providing the virtualization).
From this perspective, we can see that the abstraction hides the details of the backend storage from the front-end users, which provides a number of useful capabilities.


A more advanced capability is a dynamic tiering of the storage, such that as the data ages, it can dynamically and transparently migrate from faster, more expensive storage (FC drives) to slower, less expensive storage (SATA drives).
Finally, data protection technologies such as RAID implement a form of virtualization in that data is remapped (potentially with error correcting codes) to increase the reliability and availability of the storage system. Hopefully from this article, you can see the wide and diverse uses for virtualization technologies.
Virtualization emerged as a mainframe technology, but today is used in servers and desktops, preserving historical or esoteric hardware, and even in mobile phones (serving as the high-level operating system for the phone's OS and applications). Software defined networking is clearly a growing sector, yet its adoption is far from mainstream in the enterprise. The Virtualization Industry Roadmap tracks the past and upcoming releases for all the virtualization products listed on the Radar. The Virtualization Industry Challenges report tracks the top 10 issues when embracing virtualization. The Virtualization Industry Predictions tracks all the forecasts of the leading analysis firms about the virtualization market for the next 5-10 years. Datacenter on Demand is an on-demand data center that virtualization professionals can rent and access remotely.
Microsoft provides a command line tool (SCONFIG) for the basic configuration tasks in Hyper-V server or GUI-less installations, it provides no local GUI for its management, for GUI access, administrators without any third party software have to rely on remote management through Windows Server, System Center Virtual Machine Manager or Remote Server Administration Tools: this is a space well suited for third party solution providers and 5Nine is among them. 5Nine also provides a free version of the Manager for Hyper-V with reduced functionality compared to the paid version which costs $149 per physical host per year. Containers’ security is one of the emerging topics in those companies moving this technology into production. Yesterday, Bellevue (WA) based company WinDocks, released version 1.0 of its homonymous Docker engine for Windows.
Last week open source giant Red Hat announced the availability of version 3.6 of its KVM-based virtualization platform Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV). Yesterday Docker announced to have acquired a semi-stealth startup called Conductant, focused on workloads orchestration. Today Cisco announced the intent to acquire CliQr Technologies Inc., a privately held company based in San Jose, CA. Yesterday VMware announced version 7 of both its vCloud and vRealize suites, confirming its efforts to be relevant in the CMPs (Cloud Management Platforms) space. Log Insight is a log aggregation, management and analisys tool, that VMware first introduced in 2013 and now is fiercely competing against Splunk. During Ignite 2015, back in September, Microsoft announced Microsoft Azure Stack as the building block for its hybrid cloud strategy. Ansible is an IT automation tool especially popular within the developers’ community, thanks to its simplicity and agentless nature.
A survey by uptime software finds 62% of IT professionals ranked deploying and managing virtualized environments as Job #1. Its forms include full and para-virtualization, and it’s used to virtualize networks, servers, desktops, storage and applications. Another adopter class is companies that use outsources or off-premise cloud services and are concerned about maintaining SLAs.




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