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What is Server Virtualization?

Server virtualization is used to hide server resources from users, including details such as the number and types of operating systems, processors, and specific physical servers.

What is Server Virtualization

Server Virtualization Definition

Server virtualization is the method of splitting a physical server into multiple unique and isolated virtual servers using software applications. Each virtual server has the ability to operate its own operating system independently.

How does server virtualization work?


Server virtualization is a software framework that enables multiple server operating systems to function as guests on a specific physical server host. By abstracting the server software from the physical hardware, the server transforms into a “virtual machine” (VM), dissociated from the physical environment, despite operating under the impression that it’s exclusively utilizing the compute and memory resources. In reality, it operates on a virtual representation of the server hardware.

What are the types of server virtualization?

Full Virtualization

Full virtualization utilizes a hypervisor, a software layer that interacts directly with a physical server’s disk space and CPU. The hypervisor manages the physical server’s resources, ensuring each virtual server operates independently and remains isolated from others. It allocates resources from the physical server to the respective virtual servers as they execute applications. However, one limitation of full virtualization is that the hypervisor incurs its own processing overhead, which can potentially impact application performance and server efficiency.


In contrast to full virtualization, para-virtualization enables the entire network to function cohesively. Each operating system within the virtual servers is aware of others, reducing the hypervisor’s processing overhead for managing these operating systems.

OS-Level Virtualization

Unlike full and para-virtualization, OS-level virtualization does not require a hypervisor. Instead, the virtualization capability is integrated directly into the physical server’s operating system, handling all necessary tasks. However, all virtual servers must use the same operating system in this method of server virtualization.

What are the benefits of server virtualization?

  • Enhanced server capability
  • Reduced operating expenses
  • Simplified server management
  • Improved application performance
  • Faster workload deployment

Server virtualization challenges

While server virtualization offers numerous advantages, it also presents certain challenges:

  • Software licensing can become complex and costly due to one physical server hosting multiple VMs with diverse applications and services. For instance, with full server virtualization, each VM has its own operating system, necessitating separate licenses for each OS.
  • Host server failures can have a widespread impact, affecting all VMs hosted on the server. This means that the failure of a single host server can cause the downtime of multiple applications simultaneously.
  • VM sprawl may arise if IT management does not actively monitor VM usage and lifecycle. It is effortless to create new VM instances, leading to temporary VMs being used for testing and subsequently abandoned. If these unused VMs are not properly deleted, they continue to consume power and resources unnecessarily, potentially affecting active VM performance.
  • Inadequate planning and provisioning of VMs can result in server performance degradation, particularly when a host is burdened with numerous resource-intensive VMs, especially in terms of networking and memory allocation.

Use cases for server virtualization

  • Data center consolidation – Through server virtualization, organizations can reduce their reliance on physical hardware, leading to cost savings in power and cooling.
  • Testing environments – The ease of spinning up new VM instances and provisioning them has led many organizations to utilize them for development and testing purposes.
  • Desktop virtualization – Virtualized desktop infrastructure provides advantages such as flexibility, centralized management, heightened security, and simplified operations.
  • Backup and disaster recovery – Virtualization simplifies backup and disaster recovery efforts by enabling easy creation of backups and snapshots of VMs, facilitating quick recovery in case of a disaster.
  • Cloud computing – Virtualization and automation are integral components of cloud computing infrastructure.
  • Increased availability – Live migration of VMs enables organizations to seamlessly transfer VMs from one physical server to another without disrupting services. Virtualization ensures continuity of business-critical systems and applications during maintenance cycles or when testing new developments.
  • Support for multiple platforms – Virtualization allows organizations to run various workloads with different operating systems without necessitating dedicated hardware for each OS.

Implementing server virtualization

When considering the implementation of server virtualization throughout an organization, it’s crucial to adhere to certain key steps. The following best practices can facilitate a successful implementation:

  • Develop a comprehensive plan: Ensure that all stakeholders comprehend the purpose and necessity of adopting a virtualization platform. Evaluate associated costs and complexities, aligning the initiative with the organization’s overarching business strategy.
  • Survey available solutions: Conduct thorough research on hardware and virtualization solutions to gauge the breadth of the project. Explore industry standards and competitors’ practices to inform decision-making and enhance the likelihood of success.
  • Test and evaluate: Prior to finalizing any solution, conduct practical tests to assess its real-world functionality and impact on daily operations. Evaluate its manageability and compatibility with existing IT infrastructure to ensure a seamless integration.
  • Address business requirements: Analyze whether the proposed solution adequately addresses the organization’s specific virtualization needs. Consider its implications on security, compliance, disaster recovery plans, and overall ecosystem functionality.
  • Initiate with a small-scale deployment: For organizations new to virtualization, commence with a limited deployment on non-critical systems. This approach allows IT personnel to familiarize themselves with operational requirements and challenges before expanding to larger implementations.
  • Establish operational guidelines: Develop clear guidelines for VM provisioning, lifecycle management, and monitoring. These guidelines promote adherence to budgetary constraints, prevent resource wastage and VM sprawl, and ensure alignment with agreed-upon operational practices.
  • Choose appropriate tools: Even after selecting a virtualization platform, consider acquiring supplementary tools to maximize the platform’s advanced features and streamline system management processes.
  • Embrace automation: Foster a deep understanding of automation practices and tools among IT staff, as automation synergizes with virtualization. Automation enhances operational efficiency and scalability, facilitating smoother management of virtualized environments.


What exactly is server virtualization?

Server virtualization is a technique wherein a physical server is divided into multiple isolated virtual servers using specialized software. Each virtual server operates independently with its own operating system.

How does server virtualization benefit organizations?

Server virtualization offers several advantages, including enhanced server capability, reduced operating costs, simplified management, improved application performance, and faster deployment of workloads.

What are the different types of server virtualization?

The main types of server virtualization include Full Virtualization, Para-Virtualization, and OS-Level Virtualization. Each approach has its own unique characteristics and benefits.

What challenges can organizations face with server virtualization?

Some common challenges with server virtualization include complex software licensing, susceptibility to host server failures impacting multiple VMs, the risk of VM sprawl, and potential performance degradation without proper planning.

How can server virtualization be used in real-world scenarios?

Server virtualization finds application in various scenarios such as data center consolidation, testing environments, desktop virtualization, backup and disaster recovery, cloud computing, and ensuring increased availability of critical systems.

What are the best practices for implementing server virtualization?

Implementing server virtualization requires careful planning, evaluating available solutions, testing and evaluating, addressing business requirements, starting with small-scale deployments, establishing operational guidelines, selecting appropriate tools, and embracing automation for efficient management.

What steps should organizations take before implementing server virtualization?

Before implementing server virtualization, organizations should thoroughly understand their business needs, conduct a comprehensive analysis of available solutions, evaluate the potential impact on existing infrastructure, and ensure alignment with organizational goals and strategies.


Server virtualization offers organizations a transformative approach to optimize IT infrastructure, resulting in cost savings, improved efficiency, and enhanced agility. Despite challenges like complex licensing and potential performance issues, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. By embracing server virtualization, organizations can enhance resource utilization, streamline application deployment, and bolster disaster recovery capabilities, positioning themselves for success in today’s dynamic digital landscape.


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