Where Virtualization and Cloud Computing Intertwine

Just when you thought you had cloud computing all figured out; in comes other terms you have to wrap your head around like Hybrid cloud, private cloud, public cloud, and virtualization. Despite the fact that cloud computing is a hot topic, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the terms associated with it. A report by Forrester Research revealed that up to 70% of what IT admins allege are private clouds are actually not. The confusion is justified; considering the fact all this terms spring from a single place, the cloud.

In an earlier article, Public vs. Private Cloud Computing Basics, we briefly looked at Private Clouds, Public Clouds, and Hybrid clouds. So now the question that remains is; what is Virtualization and how does it relate to cloud computing?

Is Virtualization Cloud Computing?

A common misconception among several organizations is the notion that virtualization is synonymous to cloud computing. This is far from the truth. Comparing virtualization and cloud computing can be likened to comparing the color green and blue. When blue is combined with yellow, out comes green. Similarly, virtualization is simply one of the elements that forms cloud computing. Despite the fact that these technologies share a common bond, the two are quite different and understanding this difference is of great importance.

Virtualization in a Nutshell

To begin with, it is important to note that virtualization has been around for decades. By the end of 2012, roughly 70% of all companies were running at least some application workloads as virtual instances. Virtualization can loosely be defined as the act of simulating hardware infrastructure via software and running them as if they were actual physical resources. Virtualization enables several instances of infrastructure to operate on the same hardware; applications, devices and human users are able to interact with the virtual resource as if it were a real single physical resource. Access to the virtual resources is controlled by a Virtual Machine Manager (Also referred to as a hypervisor).

Some of the benefits of virtualization include;

  • Decreased hardware investment
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Improved Performance
  • Lower energy consumption, environment friendly
  • Improved disaster recovery
  • Easier Migration into the cloud

What is the Difference between Cloud Computing and Virtualization?

Cloud computing and virtualization are both meant to maximize computing processes while streamlining them and increasing efficiencies to reduce costs. To begin with, both of them are used to create a private cloud infrastructure, meaning one is a key component of the other. In most organizations, each technology is deployed separately.

Secondly, Cloud computing is the delivery of computing resources, data or software as service through the internet; as opposed to virtualization, which is part of the logical infrastructure. In essence, the Cloud treats computing as a utility rather than a specific technology or product. Virtualization in itself does not offer the end user a self-service layer and without the layer, computing cannot be delivered as a service. Virtualization will allow the company to fully maximize all of its computing resources but a system admin (using a Hypervisor or VMM) will still be required to provision the VM for the end user.

Virtualization as part of Private Cloud Computing

By now you have probably realized that cloud computing and virtualization is a match made in heaven. The benefits of virtualization can greatly be enhanced if it used as part of a Private Cloud solution. Cloud computing is built on a virtualized infrastructure; if you have already invested in virtualization, the cloud can work on top of that to further maximize your computing efficiency in specific instances and assist in the delivery of your current network as a service.

There are several fundamental characteristics that define cloud computing, such as automation, scalability, agility and on-demand service delivery. This means that the cloud allows you to always use what you need and its ability to rapidly, elastically, and in some cases automatically provision computing resources enables you to fully concentrate on core business without worrying about IT management.

In conclusion, Virtualization by itself allows an organization to utilize and effectively use its IT resources. However, cloud computing takes the use of those resources to another level by delivering access to those components on-demand as a service, thus reducing complexity for the end user, cost and burden. Virtualization should be a logical action for any organization that is considering the adoption of a Private cloud computing strategy.