What is Virtualization in Cloud Computing? 

Last Updated on January 7, 2023

virtualization in cloud computing

Virtualization is a technology that allows a single physical machine to host multiple virtual machines, each with its own operating system and applications. In cloud computing, virtualization is used to provide on-demand access to computing resources such as servers, storage, and networking over the internet.

The history of virtualization can be traced back to the 1960s when mainframe computers were used to host multiple applications and users simultaneously through time-sharing. However, it was not until the late 1990s and early 2000s that virtualization technology began to be widely adopted in the field of cloud computing. Companies such as VMware and Amazon Web Services (AWS) were among the pioneers of virtualization in the cloud, offering infrastructure, platform, and software services through a pay-as-you-go model.

How Virtualization Works

One physical computer can host multiple virtual machines or cloud instances thanks to the specialised software known as a hypervisor.


The virtualization software that you instal on your physical machine is called a hypervisor. It is a layer of software that stands between the host operating system or underlying hardware and the virtual machines. A number of virtual machines can each access a portion of the physical resources because the hypervisor coordinates access to the physical environment.

For instance, the hypervisor receives the request first if the virtual machine needs computing resources, such as computer processing power. The underlying hardware then completes the task after receiving the request from the hypervisor.

Read more: Hypervisors vs Containers: What is the Difference?

Cloud instances or virtual machines

One or more virtual machines can be created on your computer after virtualization software has been installed. The virtual machines can be accessed in the same way as other programmes on your computer. The virtual machine is referred to as the guest, while your computer is referred to as the host. The host can support a number of visitors. Each guest has a unique operating system, which may be the same as the host operating system or different.

The virtual machine functions from the user’s point of view just like a regular server. It has installed apps, settings, and customizations. The same computing resources, including CPUs, RAM, and storage, are visible as they would be on a real server. Without harming the host operating system, you can also customise and update the guest operating systems and their applications as appropriate.

Related: IaaS vs SaaS vs PaaS: Introduction to Cloud Computing Models

Types of Virtualization in Cloud Computing

Application virtualization

With this type of virtualization, a user can access a server-based programme from a remote location. The server stores all of the application’s attributes, including personal data, yet it can still be used on a local workstation over the internet. A user who has to run two separate versions of the same software is an example. Hosted apps and packaged applications are two terms for the technologies that leverage application virtualization.

Network virtualization

This enables the management of numerous virtual networks, each with a unique control and data plan. They share the same physical network and coexist side by side. It can be controlled by independent parties who may not even know one another. With the help of network virtualization, it is possible to set up virtual networks with routers, logical switches, firewalls, load balancers, a virtual private network (VPN), and workload security in a matter of days or even weeks.

Storage virtualization

Network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks, two types of physical storage devices, are combined into one system through storage virtualization (SAN). Even if it comes from various suppliers or is of various types, you can still pool the storage gear in your data centre. Using management software, you can assign and administer a sizable virtual storage unit created by storage virtualization using all of your physical data storage. Because they can essentially integrate numerous network storage devices into one storage device, IT administrators may streamline storage tasks like archiving, backup, and recovery.

Server virtualization

This type of virtualization involves the masking of server resources. Here, the identity number and processors of the central server (physical server) are changed to create many virtual servers. Therefore, each system can independently run its own operating system. When the identity of the central server is known by each sub-server. Transferring primary server resources to a sub-server resource improves performance and lowers operating costs. It helps with virtual migration, lowers energy use, lowers infrastructure costs, etc.

Desktop virtualization

The users’ operating system can be remotely stored on a server in the data centre thanks to desktop virtualization. It enables the user to virtually access their desktop using a separate machine from any location. Users will need a virtual desktop if they desire a special operating system other than Windows Server. User mobility, portability, and simple management of software installation, updates, and patches are some of desktop virtualization’s main advantages.

Data virtualization

This type of virtualization involves gathering data from various sources and managing it in one location without knowing more about the technical details, such as how data is gathered, stored, and formatted. The data is then arranged logically so that its virtual view can be accessed by interested parties and stakeholders, as well as users, through a variety of cloud services from a distance. Many big giant companies are providing their services like Oracle, IBM, At scale, Cdata, etc.

 It can be used to perform various kinds of tasks such as:

  • Data-integration
  • Business-integration
  • Service-oriented architecture data-services
  • Searching organizational data 

Benefits and Characteristics of Virtualization

Efficient resource use

The hardware resources used in your data centre are improved through virtualization. For instance, you can run a virtual server pool on the same computer system as a single server, using and adding computers to the pool as needed, as opposed to running a single server on a single computer system. Your data centre will have more room and you’ll spend less on electricity, generators, and cooling equipment if you have fewer underlying physical servers.

Flexible provisioning

In the cloud, deploying resources is as easy as pressing a few buttons. Users can request certain resource types and capacities, and after a short period of time, those desired sets of resources will be made available.

Additionally, it is simple for users to increase or decrease the resources’ current capacity; they only need to edit the capacity of the resources in order to meet updated resource requirements.

Automated IT management

Since actual computers are becoming virtual, software tools can be used to manage them. Virtual machine templates are defined by administrators through deployment and configuration applications. You can consistently and frequently replicate your infrastructure, avoiding labour-intensive manual settings.

Increased security

Every resource that is offered by cloud providers is secured further, and these security measures are put in place layer by layer, starting at the hardware level and progressing to the software level. End-to-end encryption, data backups, and a firewall to protect against viruses and other online dangers are just a few of the security measures. Cloud service providers also allow users to choose parts of their security guidelines, like whitelisting IP addresses, adding members, and more.

Faster disaster recovery

Regaining access to IT infrastructure and replacing or repairing a physical server can take hours or even days when incidents like natural disasters or cyberattacks have a detrimental impact on business operations. In comparison, the procedure in virtualized settings takes only a few minutes. This quick reaction greatly enhances resilience and enables business continuity, allowing for the continuation of operations as planned.

Read more: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Cloud Computing

Role of Virtualization in Cloud Computing

The on-demand, pay-as-you-go supply of computing resources through the internet is known as cloud computing. You can use a cloud provider to get access to technological services like processing power, storage, and databases as you need them rather than purchasing, owning and maintaining a physical data centre.

Computing in the cloud is made possible through virtualization technology. Own data centres are built and maintained by cloud service providers. They exploit the underlying hardware resources to build various virtual environments. Then, you can use APIs to programme your system to access these cloud services. You can get a completely managed solution to take care of your infrastructure needs.

Related: The 5 Cloud Deployment Models (with their pros and cons)


Virtualization is a key technology in cloud computing that allows organizations to host multiple virtual machines on the same physical hardware. It offers benefits such as increased resource utilization, improved scalability and flexibility, and enhanced security and isolation. However, it also has some challenges and drawbacks, including performance overhead and complexity. Despite these challenges, virtualization will continue to play a significant role in the future of cloud computing as organizations look to optimize their use of resources and deliver on demand.

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