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An Intro to Compute Virtualization


Compute virtualization is a powerful force in the world of virtualization that is helping organizations become more efficient.

Compute virtualization can be defined as a technique of separating the physical hardware from the operating systems. The benefit of this mechanism is to run multiple OSs on a single physical machine. The same concept can be implemented in the case of a clustered environment or pool of machines.

In this article, we will explore more details about compute virtualization, its working procedures and more. (For more on virtualization, see 11 Terms Every Virtualization Engineer Should Know.)

What Is Compute Virtualization?

During the 1990s, the standard was to install software on a one-application-per-server basis. This was followed to run software separately and negate any incompatibility issues. Also, Moore’s Law was proving extremely accurate at that time, which states that the transistor counts of CPUs will be doubled every two years. This meant that software was becoming outdated as the hardware was developing very quickly. The hardware was actually developing so quickly that software applications were using just about 10 percent of a single server CPU. Thus, something had to be done to use the full potential offered by hardware.

This was when VMware’s five founders understood this potential and set out to work toward a solution. The team put forward their knowledge in microprocessors, along with the basis of UNIX architecture and virtual machine monitors, to put forth a certain change to the laws of virtualization set forth by Popek and Goldberg in 1974. And, this helped the industry in shifting their vision toward virtualization.

In the field of computing, virtualization means creating a virtual version of computer-related things, like the OS, application software, network resources or even the hardware resources. Compute virtualization helps in the simplification of traditional computing architectures. It helps in reducing the maintenance costs, as it splits the physical server into many smaller servers. Thus, multiple instances of different servers can be run on different computers easily, without the requirement of powerful processing. Such a stance has completely changed the view of the IT sector, especially with regards to the cost and efficiency of services and software.

Compute virtualization helps create a powerful model for virtual machines, which converts physical servers into extremely useful computational resources, while saving money and time.


How Compute Virtualization Is Implemented

Compute virtualization can be used by the IT sector for improving their computing architecture. Many renowned companies like Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are involved in the implementation of compute virtualization for servers.

For the implementation of compute virtualization, the actual physical machine has to be divided into several virtual machines. The main object that keeps all these virtual machines together and makes them easier to manage is the hypervisor. Also known as the monitor of the virtual machines, a hypervisor is nothing but a software layer which intercepts the calls of the operating system and divides the labor to the available hardware resources. Thus, hypervisors allocate a certain amount of virtual CPU and RAM to the virtual machines.

These are mainly of two types: Hypervisors of the first type run directly on the hardware resources of the server, such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and VMware ESX, while those of the second type run on the existing OS. VMware Workstation and SWSoft’s Parallels Desktop are examples of the second type.

Differences from Other Virtualization Techniques

Compute virtualization is different from its counterparts, namely desktop virtualization and storage virtualization. In compute virtualization, the actual physical server is divided into a number of virtual servers. Software is used to serve this purpose. Each divided server is known as a virtual server and they are masked from the users.

But, in desktop virtualization, desktop computers are virtualized or separated from their physical hardware and are accessible by users on the network. They can use it like a physical desktop on the network.

On the other hand, storage virtualization can be divided into two parts: file and block virtualization. As the name suggests, storage virtualization virtualizes the storage part, so that the storage contents are easier to access over a network. (To learn more about storage virtualization, see Keeping Up With the Data Explosion by Virtualizing Storage.)

What Are the Advantages?

There are many advantages of compute virtualization and it is being used in a diverse number of places. Some of the advantages of using compute virtualization or server virtualization are discussed below.

Better Security Quotient

As the data is split between many computers and the resources are masked from the users, the security of the data is increased. The splitting of data also adds to disaster recovery as lost data can be reclaimed from another virtual server. This increases the resilience quotient of the network, and viruses and malware can be removed easily.

Better Administration

As the server is divided into several virtual servers, it is much easier to manage and administrate. Furthermore, business procedures are much more simplified and hardware licensing becomes much easier.

Saving Money

Through virtualization, the cost of management and consolidation of servers are reduced dramatically, so the company saves money. Additionally, the need for large spaces is eliminated as the virtual servers are kept at different locations, and hardware and electricity costs are reduced in this process.

Centralized Server

Compute virtualization completely centralizes the company’s IT architecture. The network becomes very efficient and the data can be accessed by many users at any time and at any place. The computers are connected, so if the data is lost from the computer of one employee, it can be retrieved from another virtual server easily.

Easier Software Testing Environment

Through compute virtualization, a powerful testing environment can be created which can allow testing in diverse conditions and OSs.

The Future of Compute Virtualization

With better technology and faster networking, compute virtualization is getting faster, more efficient and more secure. Also, as newer server products are arriving in the market, the technology is becoming even better.

Nowadays, every organization is trying to implement server virtualization in their IT infrastructure. But with better and cheaper technology, more and more companies will be able to implement it in their IT departments. Smaller companies will especially gain more from this, as virtualization can help them cut on costs of equipment.

VMware has introduced bare-metal hypervisors, which can run directly on the hardware without the intervention of any operating system. It is actually a modified Red Hat Linux kernel. This type of software will be of immense use in the future, as it allows better use of the hardware.

Compute virtualization can also help in saving money for software testing, as it helps in creating a solid testing environment, without having to buy and manage multiple servers at once.


Nowadays, servers are becoming more and more powerful, and software isn’t being developed at such a fast pace. Thus, compute virtualization is required for utilizing the server’s potential to the fullest. Compute virtualization has many advantages, and so it is being implemented by many different organizations for different uses like software testing and enhancing the server’s capabilities. Compute virtualization is allowing faster access to data for users, along with security of data on virtualized servers, which is also increased. Data is much less vulnerable to data corruption, and even if it does get corrupted, it can be simply retrieved from another virtual server.

With newer technologies coming into the scene, the uses and the users of compute virtualization will increase to a large extent. Many IT giants have already started creating server technologies which will promote the growth of compute virtualization. These technologies will help in better server compatibility. Thus for its security, ease of management and adaptability, it is considered to be the best virtualization method.


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Kaushik Pal
Technology writer

Kaushik is a technical architect and software consultant with over 23 years of experience in software analysis, development, architecture, design, testing and training. He has an interest in new technologies and areas of innovation. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open source software, WebRTC, big data and semantic technologies. He has demonstrated expertise in requirements analysis, architectural design and implementation, technical use cases and software development. His experience has covered various industries such as insurance, banking, airlines, shipping, document management and product development, etc. He has worked on a wide range of technologies ranging from large scale (IBM…