Understanding the Ups and Downs of Virtualization Technologies

Virtualization helps to integrate servers into a physical server in such a way that each one of them appears as a standalone server to the users. There are different types of popular server virtualizations, OS virtualization, hardware emulation and paravirtualization. Learn about their benefits and drawbacks here:Virtualization Technologies

OS Virtualization

Operating system virtualization helps to create a virtualized layer of software on top of host operating systems that reside above the hardware layer. Unlike other virtualization, they create an OS interface for applications to run, giving the feeling of a complete OS for the applications. Since OS virtualization provides the least overhead amongst all other types, they offer high performance and high density of virtual environment. Their major drawback is that they support only one operating system and guest OS in a single server. You have to choose a single OS, such as Linux or Windows. All OS in the container should be of the same version and should have same patch levels of the base OS. If the base OS crashes, all others become unavailable.

Hardware Emulation

In hardware emulation, specialized software, also known as hypervisor creates hardware emulation for OS in a single server. There are two types of hypervisors, type 1 and type 2. Hardware emulators can host different types of OS in a single server. The OS loaded into each virtual machine works as a standalone and unmodified OS. One of the biggest benefits of hardware emulators is that the OS and applications need not be modified to run on the virtual environment.

An advantage of type 1 hypervisor is that if a single virtual machine crashes, it does not affect the rest of the guest operation system. In type 2 hypervisor, the OS takes care of all the hardware. However, on the downside, type 2 have more points of failure since anything affecting the stability of the base operating system can also affect the guest OS and the virtual machine.

Paravirtualization

Paravirtualization does not emulate hardware environment in software, instead it coordinates or multiplexes access to hardware resources in favor of the virtual machine. In a paravirtualized environment, a guest OS is directly installed on the hypervisor that does not contain any device drivers for network and storage. Instead a privileged guest OS also known as DomainO has direct access to hardware. Paravirtualization uses device drivers of the DomainO which is a huge benefit. Users of the virtual machine will not have to depend on the hypervisor software provider for driver software.  A drawback is the requirements of modifying guest operating system to execute and communicate with the hypervisor.

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