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What is a virtual machine?

Hello! Imagine any of these situations. For example, you want to test an operating system, but you have no space on your hard disk. Or you simply want to test a program that does not work on your operating system, but on another one. You probably think that the only solution is to install it on your hard disk. In such a case, you would have to format the hard disk, with the consequent loss of information. Besides, it is a process that requires certain knowledge and special attention from the user. But this is not necessarily so. Maybe you have heard about virtual machines. We are talking about software that allows you to run an operating system on another system contained in a computer. But what exactly is a virtual machine? What does it do? How does its mechanism work? We will try to answer these questions.

What is a virtual machine?

A virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation of a computer that runs on another computer. This way, allowing multiple operating systems to run on the same physical machine. It provides a virtualized environment for running applications, which are isolated from the host operating system and other VMs.

How a virtual machine works?

A virtual machine works by using a hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor, to virtualize the underlying hardware of a physical computer. The hypervisor creates virtual devices and emulates their behavior. This way, it can to provide a virtual environment for the operating system and applications running within the VM. The VM communicates with the hypervisor, which in turn communicates with the physical hardware. So it allows the VM to access physical resources such as CPU, memory, and storage. This allows multiple VMs to run on the same physical machine. Also, each one with its own operating system and applications, without interfering with each other.

What are the advantages of using a virtual machine?

Some advantages of using a virtual machine include:

  • Isolation: VMs provide a layer of isolation between the host operating system and applications. Therefore, reducing the risk of contamination or system instability.
  • Cost-effectiveness: VMs can be a cost-effective solution for running multiple operating systems and applications on the same physical machine. This way reducing the need for multiple physical computers.
  • Portability: VMs can be easily moved between physical machines, making it easier to migrate to new hardware or to recover from a failure.
  • Compatibility: VMs can run older or incompatible applications, allowing them to continue to be used even on newer hardware or operating systems.
  • Test environment: VMs are available to create a safe and controlled environment for testing new software or configurations without affecting the host operating system

Disadvantages of working with virtual machines

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Some disadvantages of working with virtual machines include:

  • Performance: VMs can have lower performance compared to running directly on physical hardware, as they must share the physical resources of the host machine.
  • Resource utilization: Running multiple VMs on a single physical machine can consume a large amount of resources. Especially memory and storage.
  • Complexity: Virtualization can introduce additional complexity to an IT environment, requiring specialized knowledge and skills to manage and maintain the virtual infrastructure.
  • Licensing costs: Some virtualization platforms and operating systems have additional licensing costs that can add to the overall cost of implementing virtualization.
  • Security: VMs can be vulnerable to security threats just like physical computers. Therefore, additional security measures may be required to secure the virtual environment.

What are the requirements for Windows to run virtual machines?

The requirements for Windows to run virtual machines are:

  • A 64-bit processor with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  • At least 4 GB of RAM
  • At least 64 GB of free hard disk space
  • Hyper-V and Containers Windows features enabled
  • Windows 10/11 Pro or Enterprise (64-bit) version 1909 or later
  • A GPU with WDDM 2.0 driver for GPU acceleration (optional)

What is Hyper V, the virtualization module for windows?

Hyper-V is a native hypervisor from Microsoft that provides virtualization technology for creating and running virtual machines on Windows operating systems. It allows multiple operating systems to run on a single physical machine. In the same way, providing isolation and security for each virtual machine and enabling efficient utilization of hardware resources. With Hyper-V, users can create and manage virtual machines. Also configuring virtual switches, storage, and network interfaces, and monitor virtual machine performance and resource usage. It is available as a feature in Windows 10/11 Pro and Enterprise editions.

What are the most used virtualization software?

The most widely used virtualization software are:

  • VMware vSphere
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Citrix XenServer
  • Oracle VirtualBox
  • Red Hat Virtualization (RHV)
  • Proxmox Virtual Environment
  • KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine)
  • AWS (Amazon Web Services)
  • Google Compute Engine
  • Alibaba Cloud Elastic Compute Service (ECS)

They are certainly the most popular. However, we will highlight those most commonly used in Windows environment. Previously, we talked about Hyper V. Therefore, we will start with Virtual Box.

Oracle Virtual Box

VirtualBox is a free and open-source virtualization software for x86 and AMD64/Intel64-based computers. It allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. Also, each one in its own virtual environment. Moreover, providing isolation and security for each virtual machine. VirtualBox provides a user-friendly interface for creating, configuring and managing virtual machines.

In addition, including support for storage and network interfaces, and can be used for a wide range of purposes including software development, testing, and personal use. It can run on various host operating systems including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Solaris, and supports a wide range of guest operating systems including Windows, Linux, and BSD distributions.

VMware vSphere

VMware vSphere is a comprehensive enterprise-class virtualization platform. It provides a centralized management solution for virtual infrastructure. Moreover, it is used for creating, deploying and managing virtual machines, networks, and storage resources. With vSphere, IT organizations can pool and allocate shared resources to virtual machines and application. With this in mind, enabling efficient utilization of hardware resources, high availability, and disaster recovery.

vSphere includes features such as live migration of virtual machines, storage and network resource management, and multi-hypervisor support, as well as a robust security model and a powerful API for integration with other management tools. It is widely used in data centers and cloud environments for virtualizing business-critical applications, and is available as a standalone product or as part of the VMware Cloud Foundation, a unified SDDC platform for deploying and managing a hybrid cloud.

Very well, in this way we have seen what Virtual Machines are. We also check what are the advantages and disadvantages of using them. We also learned how they work. Furthermore, we saw which are the most used ones, plus what you need to run them on Windows.

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