What is a Virtual Machine?

The easiest way to think of a virtual machine would be as a computer within a computer. Computer operating systems are basically composed of a kernel and a file structure. With current technology, it is now possible for a computer to share its resources in order to run a separate kernel and operating system.

What Is a Virtual Machine And How Does It Work?

Typically, the computer that creates and manages virtual computers is called a hypervisor. A hypervisor can slice (or, “partition”) a portion of drive space and allocate memory so that, in essence, a separate computer can run within one computer.

With proper resources, this process can be carried out repeatedly, creating a virtually unlimited number of virtual computers.

What Is The Use of a Virtual Machine?

Virtual machines have a variety of real world applications.

On a smaller scale, virtual machines, or “containers” can be used for software development. By creating and managing a virtual environment, developers are able to recreate precise conditions on multiple workstations. This way, a piece of software can be easily tested and compiled in reproducible circumstances. In the most basic sense, this kind of compliance can help developers avoid a scenario in which the software runs great on one workstation but not on a different workstation.

Virtual machines play a key role in what has become known as “cloud computing.” Large-scale data services can now manage a massive fleet of computers and sell space on their infrastructure for virtual computing. (This is what you may hear referred to as “Infrastructure as a service,” or, “IaaS.”)

How Many Types of Virtual Machines Are There?

Since virtual machines are basically containers on a computer that run software, there are too many types of virtual machines to list. Most often, the hypervisor computer will run open-source software like OpenStack to manage the virtual machines. As far as virtual machines themselves go, there is an unlimited variety. It depends on the operating system and custom configuration.

For example, you could install a virtual machine running a popular Linux operating system like Ubuntu. Then there may be variations beyond that. You may likewise have a custom installation of Ubuntu with preferred software you would like to use in your application. The level of customization is unlimited, thus virtual machines are essentially limited only to the resources available on the master computer.

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