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Hardware virtualization

Hardware virtualization definition

Hardware virtualization is the process of a physical machine (host) utilizing specialized software called a hypervisor to emulate one or more virtual machines (VMs). These VMs (guests) operate independently and can run different operating systems and applications as though they were distinct physical entities.

Hardware virtualization is used in various industries:

  • Data centers deploy it to maximize resource utilization and minimize costs.
  • Software developers use VMs for testing across various environments without needing multiple physical systems.
  • Cloud service providers are able to host numerous clients on a single hardware infrastructure, thanks to VMs.

See also: host virtual machine, micro-virtual-machine, server virtualization

How hardware virtualization works

At the core of hardware virtualization is the hypervisor — software that directly interfaces with the physical hardware and allocates resources (CPU, RAM, storage, etc.) to each virtual machine. The hypervisor ensures isolation between VMs, preventing them from affecting each other.

History of hardware virtualization

Virtualization can be traced back to the 1960s with IBM’s mainframe systems, designed to boost the efficiency of large, expensive hardware. Its significance grew with personal computers and servers becoming more popular, leading to the establishment of notable players in the sector, like VMware, in the 1990s. Hardware virtualization has revolutionized IT, allowing for flexibility, scalability, and optimized resource usage.