Virtualization describes a technology in which an application, guest operating system or data storage is abstracted away from the true underlying hardware or software. A key use of virtualization technology is server virtualization, which uses a software layer called a hypervisor to emulate the underlying hardware.
This often includes the CPU's memory, I/O and network traffic. The guest operating system, normally interacting with true hardware, is now doing so with a software emulation of that hardware, and often the guest operating system has no idea it's on virtualized hardware. While the performance of this virtual system is not equal to the performance of the operating system running on true hardware, the concept of virtualization works because most guest operating systems and applications don't need the full use of the underlying hardware. This allows for greater flexibility, control and isolation by removing the dependency on a given hardware platform.
Virtualization can be viewed as part of an overall trend in enterprise IT that includes autonomic computing, a scenario in which the IT environment will be able to manage itself based on perceived activity, and utility computing, in which computer processing power is seen as a utility that clients can pay for only as needed. Virtualization is to centralize administrative tasks while improving scalability and workloads.
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