Thursday, October 23, 2014

How is Virtualization Different than Cloud Computing?

For the majority of us who aren’t experts in the world of IT, there’s a lot of confusion about cloud computing and virtualization. A common misconception is that these two strategies are interchangeable and synonymous with one another. While it’s true that they are related in several ways, it’s very important to understand the fundamental differences between cloud computing and virtualization - especially when making important decisions for company or organization.

A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. Everyone is familiar with this geometric principle, and as it turns out, it is a great analogy for the differences between cloud computing and virtualization. Keeping that in mind, these definitions should help better your understanding:

  • Cloud computing: the delivery of shared computing resources, software or data as a service via the Internet
  • Virtualization: refers to the act of creating a virtual version of a computer hardware platform, operating system (OS), storage device or computer network services

In this situation, the square-rectangle comparison is relevant because virtualization can be used as a tool to provide cloud computing, but cloud computing itself is not the same thing as virtualization. Virtualization is a specific element of cloud computing. In other words, virtualization is a square, and cloud computing is a rectangle. Let’s break it down even further:

Virtualization

Virtualization
The director of product marketing at VMware, Mike Adams, described virtualization as the “software [that] makes it possible to run multiple operating systems and multiple applications on the same server at the same time.” This means that virtualization software allows users to overcome physical hardware incompatibilities. In other words, virtualization software provides the physical infrastructure that allows cloud computing to be executed.

See the diagram (Source: VirtualCommand.com) to the right: the virtualization software, called a hypervisor or a virtual machine manager (VMM), runs on the physical hardware of your computer and manipulates it to allow you to run virtual machines (VMs) that would otherwise be incompatible with your computer or operating system.

Cloud Computing

The ability to access and operate virtual machines through virtualization software is one form of cloud computing. For example, it is not possible to run certain Microsoft applications on the Mac OSX. One way to overcome this obstacle would be to install a form of virtualization software, which would allow you to virtually run the Microsoft Windows operating system on a Mac computer. The service (having the ability to run MS applications on your Mac) is what we call cloud computing. More basic forms of cloud computing include internet storage services, like Dropbox, and webmail services, like Gmail. These services allow you to access stored data and information (in the “cloud”) from a remote location via the internet.

Adopting a cloud computing strategy at the enterprise level is much more complex and integrated than basic webmail, which is why virtualization software is usually a great option for businesses. You can learn more about the fundamentals of virtualization with this DVD training program from VMware, or read more about how virtualization can save you money, here, on the VMware Certification Marketplace blog.

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