Cloud computing virtualization – A deep dive


Cloud computing has revolutionized the way we access and utilize computing resources. Underpinning this transformation lies a powerful technology: virtualization. This article delves into the world of cloud computing virtualization, exploring its core concepts, delving into different hardware virtualization types, and unveiling its significance.

At its core, virtualization allows the sharing of a single physical instance of an application or resource among multiple users or organizations. It achieves this by creating a logical representation, independent of the underlying physical hardware. This logical entity, known as a virtual machine (VM), operates within its own allocated resources, providing a flexible and efficient way to utilize computing power.

These virtual resources can be used just like physical resources, but they offer several advantages, such as:

  • Increased efficiency: Virtualization allows you to consolidate multiple physical servers onto fewer machines, which can save you money on hardware and energy costs.
  • Improved scalability: You can easily add or remove virtual resources as needed, which makes it easy to scale your IT infrastructure up or down.
  • Greater flexibility: Virtual resources can be easily moved around, which makes it easy to provision and manage your IT infrastructure.
  • Enhanced security: Virtualization can help to improve security by isolating virtual machines from each other, which can help to prevent malware and other security threats from spreading.

The magic behind VMs lies in the hypervisor, a software layer that acts as the virtual machine manager. It sits between the physical hardware and the VMs, allocating resources, ensuring isolation, and facilitating communication. There are two primary types of hypervisors:

  • Type 1 Hypervisor (Bare-metal Hypervisor): This hypervisor runs directly on the physical hardware, without the need for an underlying operating system. Examples include VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V Server, and Oracle VM Server.
  • Type 2 Hypervisor (Hosted Hypervisor): This hypervisor operates as software on top of an existing operating system. Examples include VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, and Microsoft Hyper-V (client version).

Hardware Virtualization Toolbox

Virtualization offers various approaches to emulating and managing hardware resources for VMs. Let’s explore the three main types:

  • Full Virtualization: This method completely simulates the underlying hardware, enabling any guest operating system to run on the VM without requiring modifications. However, it comes with the overhead of emulating hardware, potentially impacting performance.
  • Emulation Virtualization: Similar to full virtualization, emulation simulates the hardware, offering platform independence. However, it can be even less performant compared to full virtualization.
  • Paravirtualization: This approach takes a different route. Instead of complete emulation, the guest operating system is modified to work directly with the hypervisor. This results in improved performance compared to full or emulation virtualization but requires modifications to the guest OS, potentially limiting compatibility.

Top players

When it comes to cloud computing virtualization, several major players hold significant market share and influence:

1. VMware

A long-standing leader in the virtualization space, VMware offers a comprehensive suite of virtualization solutions, including vSphere for server virtualization, vCloud for cloud management, and Horizon for desktop virtualization. VMware vSphere stands out as a prominent virtualization platform offering a comprehensive management infrastructure framework. It goes beyond simply virtualizing individual servers, encompassing system, storage, and networking hardware. This holistic approach enables the creation and management of entire virtualized environments, further enhancing the efficiency and scalability of cloud computing.


  • Market leader: Extensive experience and established reputation.
  • Comprehensive suite: Offers solutions for server (vSphere), cloud (vCloud), and desktop (Horizon) virtualization.
  • Robust features: Feature-rich with strong security, performance, and management capabilities.


  • Cost: Can be expensive compared to some competitors.
  • Vendor lock-in: May lead to dependence on VMware for future needs.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft has made significant strides in virtualization with its Hyper-V technology. Hyper-V is tightly integrated with the Windows Server ecosystem, making it a popular choice for organizations already invested in Microsoft products.


  • Tight integration: Seamless integration with Windows Server environment.
  • Cost-effective: Generally less expensive than VMware.
  • Growing capabilities: Continued development and feature improvement.


  • Limited platform support: Primarily focused on Windows environments.
  • Maturity: May lack some advanced features compared to established players like VMware.

3. Citrix Systems

Citrix focuses on desktop and application virtualization, offering solutions like XenDesktop and XenApp. These solutions enable users to access their desktops and applications from any device, regardless of location.


  • Focus on desktops/applications: Leading provider in desktop and application virtualization (XenDesktop, XenApp).
  • Device agnostic: Enables access from any device, regardless of location.
  • Security focus: Offers strong security features for managing remote access.


  • Complexity: Managing multiple Citrix components can add complexity.
  • Cost: Can be expensive for large deployments.

4. Red Hat (IBM)

Red Hat, acquired by IBM, contributes significantly through its KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) technology. KVM is a free and open-source hypervisor gaining traction due to its flexibility and cost-effectiveness.


  • Open-source: Freely available and customizable, fostering a large community.
  • Cost-effective: No licensing fees, making it ideal for budget-conscious organizations.
  • Growing adoption: Gaining traction due to its flexibility and performance.


  • Limited support: May require additional expertise for setup and management compared to commercial solutions.
  • Maturity: May lack some advanced features found in commercial offerings.

5. Other players

While the above companies dominate the market, other players like Oracle, Google, and emerging startups also contribute to the virtualization landscape with specialized solutions or niche offerings. Oracle provides VirtualBox, a free and open-source virtualization solution for desktops and servers, while Google offers Cloud TPU and Cloud GPU solutions for specialized workloads requiring high-performance hardware acceleration.

Selecting the most suitable virtualization solution hinges on your specific requirements and priorities. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Budget: It’s crucial to compare the licensing costs associated with different solutions, along with any ongoing maintenance fees that may apply. This will help you determine the most cost-effective option for your organization.
  • Existing infrastructure: Ensure compatibility between the chosen virtualization solution and your current hardware and software environment. This will prevent compatibility issues and ensure a smooth implementation process.
  • Desired features: Carefully evaluate the features offered by each solution and prioritize those that are most critical for your specific workloads. This will help you narrow down your choices and select the solution that best meets your functional needs.
  • Long-term scalability: As your organization grows and its needs evolve, consider the scalability of the potential virtualization solutions. Choose one that can adapt to accommodate future growth and potential changes in your IT infrastructure.

In conclusion, cloud computing virtualization serves as a cornerstone technology, enabling efficient resource utilization, flexibility, and scalability. By understanding the core concepts, different hardware virtualization types, and the role of platforms like VMware vSphere, we gain valuable insights into the intricate workings of this transformative technology.