Currently there are some very powerful software technologies that are capable of changing the way we approach the IT landscape. Virtualization is one of these relatively new technologies that has improved flexibility and productivity. It’s made possible thanks to today’s high performance hardware. In this article we are going to explore a few of the virtualization solutions that allow you to run numerous different virtual machines.
Before we begin, it’s really important to understand what virtualization is all about, how it works, and what some of the possibilities are. Once you understand the theory that lies behind all of this, then you'll understand the features and functions of the solutions that we will overview later in this article.
By the very definition of the word, virtualization means making something virtual. In this aspect, it performs hardware virtualization, sometimes called “full platform virtualization.” It takes the available resources of the computer, separates them without interfering and sets up an independent virtual machine that is abstract and emulated. On this virtual machine you can run any operating system.
Basically, this means that a fully functional virtual machine will be run on your system. This abstract (virtual) environment is totally emulated by software. Therefore, it does not require additional hardware. On the virtual machine, abbreviated VM, programs can be run just as you would in reality. Native execution is possible.
Furthermore, let’s explain some other terminology. Every time you check the list of features of virtualization software packages, you may notice the following term: supported “guest operating systems.” These are the operating systems that have been tested and are proven—they can indeed be emulated without problems. Often these include, but are not limited to, all kinds of Microsoft Windows OSes, Linux (2.4, 2.6), Solaris, BSD…
Throughout this article we are going to overview and present three virtualization software solutions. They all offer full platform virtualization and are free (depending on license; some have certain limitations, which you can learn by reading the ToS and EULA). first we’ll present a couple of VMWare solutions, then we will continue with Microsoft’s Virtual PC, and finally overview Sun xVM’s VirtualBox. We strongly encourage the use of all of them.
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