Virtual machines (VMs) are separate operating system installations on a single computer, with each OS sharing the computer’s system resources. A Linux virtual machine, for example, could be installed on top of your Windows PC.
Several operating system installations can coexist on the same physical machine at the same time, as long as the hardware is capable. As a result, virtual machines are a convenient way to expand your desktop and server environments. Other advantages of virtual machines include ease of provisioning and maintenance, as well as high availability.
Definitions of Virtual Machines (VMs)
VMs are virtual computer systems that house other operating systems and applications. VMs are completely self-contained and independent of the physical hardware that serves as their host machine. On a host, multiple VMs, or guest machines, can be installed.
A hypervisor is a software that sits between the VMs and the host and is in charge of allocating the host’s computing resources to the VMs. Hypervisors can be classified as type 1 or type 2. Type-1 hypervisors run directly on the host’s hardware, while Type-2 hypervisors run on top of the hardware’s operating system. A type 1 hypervisor is Microsoft Hyper-V, while a type 2 hypervisor is Parallels® Desktop for Mac.
VMs also have the following characteristics:
- A single server can host multiple virtual machines (VMs), with the hypervisor allocating a portion of the server’s system resources to each VM.
- Each VM is isolated from the rest of the hardware and operates independently.
- A VM’s state can be saved to a file, and VMs can be moved and copied just like files.
- VMs are not tied to any server; instead, they can be easily migrated to another server.
Benefits of Virtual Machines (VMs)
While virtual machines operate in the same manner as individual computers, with their own operating systems and applications, they have the advantage of remaining completely independent of one another and the physical host machine. A hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine manager, is a piece of software that allows you to run multiple operating systems on multiple virtual machines at the same time. This allows you to run Linux virtual machines, for example, on a Windows operating system, or to run an older version of Windows on a more recent Windows operating system.
Furthermore, because VMs are self-contained, they are extremely portable. A VM on a hypervisor can be moved almost instantly to another hypervisor on a completely different machine.
Virtual machines offer numerous advantages due to their flexibility and portability, including:
Running multiple virtual environments from a single piece of infrastructure allows you to drastically reduce your physical infrastructure footprint. This increases your bottom line by eliminating the need to maintain nearly as many servers and saving money on maintenance and electricity.
Agility and Speed
Spinning up a VM is relatively easy and quick, and it is much easier than provisioning an entirely new environment for your developers. Virtualization speeds up the process of running dev-test scenarios.
Because VMs are so portable and easy to move from one hypervisor to another on a different machine, they are an excellent backup solution in the event that the host goes down unexpectedly.
VMs enable you to scale your apps more easily by adding more physical or virtual servers to distribute the workload across multiple VMs. As a result, you can improve your apps’ availability and performance.
Because virtual machines run multiple operating systems, using a guest operating system on a VM allows you to run apps with questionable security while also protecting your host operating system. VMs also enable better security forensics and are frequently used to safely study computer viruses by isolating the viruses from their host computer.
Reasons to Start Using a Virtual Machine
What is the purpose of virtual machines for ordinary people? Here are some useful uses for virtual machines that you can try.
1. Experiment with New Operating Systems
Let’s say you’ve always used Windows, but you’re feeling adventurous and want to try out Linux. There are several ways to try Linux, including a dual-boot setup, but virtualization is a great way to do so with minimal risk.
On your Windows pc, all you need do is install VirtualBox (or another hypervisor) and then create a new virtual machine. Then, install any Linux installation ISO (such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint) as a virtual machine. You can now run Linux (the guest OS) as a program in a window within your Windows system (the host OS).
Even if you’re unfamiliar with this, you can rest assured because the virtual machine acts as a sandbox. If something goes wrong in the guest OS, such as a malware infection or a corrupted setting, the host OS is unaffected.
If the VM does not boot for some reason, simply recreate it and reinstall the operating system. There’s no need to be concerned about your computer crashing because you tried an unfamiliar operating system.
2. Safely Handle Potential Malware
As previously stated, one of the primary advantages of a virtual machine is its isolation from your primary system. This means you can take security risks you might not normally take.
For example, suppose you want to download a program but are unsure whether the site from which it was obtained is legitimate. Or perhaps you want to put your antivirus to the test without risking infection.
Perhaps you’re bored and want to see what a virus does to an operating system. You could even put theories to the test, such as what happens if you delete System32 in Windows.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that malware will detect that it’s running in a virtual environment and attempt to escape. Even though the risk is low, you should not be careless.
3. Develop Software for Alternative Platforms
Another important application for virtual machines is to streamline the testing of apps and websites across multiple platforms.
Assume you’re creating a game that will run on both desktop and mobile platforms. You can test the various versions on your computer by using emulation. Instead of transferring installer files between your phone and other test computers, you can simply emulate them.
Compiling to other executable types is also possible with virtualization. Even if you use a cross-platform framework, you may be limited to compiling APP files on Mac and EXE files on Windows. Virtualization eliminates the need for dual-booting for each build.
Emulation isn’t always a good enough substitute for running apps on real hardware. However, for many uses, emulation is a simple way to gain access to other operating systems.
Virtual machines can help many businesses save time and money. Businesses can be more flexible, create mobile workforces, and virtualize work environments with it. Virtual machines are becoming increasingly popular in businesses due to their ease of use for both end users and IT professionals.