How does VMware work?

VMware is a popular virtualization technology that allows users to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine. It provides a layer of abstraction between computing, storage, and networking hardware to deliver flexible and scalable virtual infrastructure.

How does VMware work?

What is virtualization?

Virtualization refers to creating virtual versions of computing resources like servers, desktops, applications, networks, and storage. It allows sharing physical resources securely among virtual environments called virtual machines (VMs).

The software that enables virtualization on x86 hardware is called a hypervisor or virtual machine monitor (VMM). It allows multiple VMs with different operating systems to run on a single physical machine.

Key benefits of using VMware

Here are some of the key benefits of using VMware virtualization:

  • Increased hardware utilization – Allows increasing resource utilization by running multiple VMs on the same physical servers
  • Cost savings – Reduces hardware costs by eliminating underutilized servers and improving productivity
  • Flexibility and scalability – Makes it easy to provision new VMs within minutes and scale capacity up or down as needed
  • Improved disaster recovery – Simplifies backup and replication processes for better disaster recovery
  • Enhanced security – Isolates apps and data into separate VMs to limit impact of security breaches
  • Simplified testing and development – Streamlines dev, test, and staging environments with easy VM provisioning

VMware product portfolio

VMware offers a robust portfolio of virtualization products for data centers, end-user computing, and cloud environments:

VMware vSphere: The leading server virtualization platform to transform data centers into simplified infrastructure and enable next-gen apps

  • Key components: ESXi hypervisor, vCenter Server, vSphere Client
  • Use cases: Server consolidation, business continuity, infrastructure optimization

VMware Horizon: Enables delivery of desktops, apps, online services from a central location

  • Key components: Horizon Client, Horizon Agent, Connection Server
  • Use cases: VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service)

VMware NSX: Provides network virtualization and security for VMs and container workloads

  • Key components: NSX Manager, NSX Controller, NSX Edge
  • Use cases: Micro-segmentation, network security policies

VMware Tanzu: An enterprise Kubernetes grid to operate and manage containerized workloads

  • Key components – Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, Tanzu Mission Control
  • Use cases: Container ops, Kubernetes infrastructure

VMware architecture

The VMware software architecture consists of these key layers:

  • Virtualization layer – Includes ESXi hypervisor which creates virtualization between hardware and VMs
  • Management layer – vCenter Server enables organizing, managing, and monitoring VMware environment
  • Infrastructure Services – Various services like distributed resource scheduling and high availability
  • Virtual Machines and applications – The virtual servers running their own guest OS and apps above virtualization layer
  • Hardware – The underlying physical hardware resources like storage, network, compute

How does vSphere work?

vSphere is VMware’s industry-leading server virtualization platform. It has following key components:

ESXi Hypervisor

This software layer provides virtualization capability by abstracting processor, memory, storage and networking resources. It partitions physical hardware into multiple secure and portable virtual machines.

Key functions include:

  • Provide virtual hardware to VMs using emulation
  • Automatically allocate resources between VMs
  • Enable advanced capabilities like live migration of VMs across hosts

The direct interaction between virtual machines and physical hardware enables high I/O throughput rates and increased consolidation ratios.

The ESXi hypervisor has a compact footprint that enables embedding inside servers, switches, and more for efficient management.

vCenter Server

vCenter Server provides unified management for all hosts and VMs from single window.

Key functions include:

  • Give complete visibility into infrastructure inventory
  • Automate provisioning and workload placements
  • Simplify infrastructure monitoring and usage reporting
  • Deliver role-based access control and delegation
  • Enforce sophisticated business policies via VMware vSphere APIs

This enables increased operational efficiency and agility by allowing users to quickly map business needs to IT infrastructure without disruption.

vSphere Client

vSphere Client is the interface for vCenter Server and ESXi. It allows admins and users to interact with virtual infrastructure visually.

Key functions include:

  • Provide consolidated console to manage vSphere environments
  • Give virtual infrastructure visibility through searchable inventory views
  • Enable control and troubleshooting across software-defined data center
  • Simplify infrastructure at scale by automating simpler tasks

This provides a simplified and automated management experience to reduce time-consuming and repetitive administrative tasks.

Working of VMware Fault Tolerance

VMware vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT) provides continuous availability capability by creating a live shadow copy of a VM that can take over instantly in case of hardware failure or OS crash.

It works by using vLockstep technology that enables precise synchronization between primary and secondary VMs. Both VMs execute same instruction stream while replicated at low-level non-JavaScript instructions.

The key steps in enabling Fault Tolerance are:

  1. Enable FT on protected VM – The primary VM is called ‘Protected VM’ for which FT needs to be enabled. It maintains heartbeat with its secondary VM.
  2. Create Secondary VM – vCenter Server automatically creates another identical VM on different ESXi host. This secondary VM mirrors protected one using vLockstep.
  3. Continuous replication – After that continuous replication occurs where ESXi captures CPU, memory, state changes on primary VM and passes it to secondary one using separate logging channel.
  4. Failure detection – In case primary VM fails due to hardware issue or app crash, secondary VM is alerted to failure via heartbeat loss.
  5. Seamless failover – The secondary VM is then quickly promoted to take over and starts functioning seamlessly using replicated state. The failure is isolated and apps continue unaffected.

This provides simple transparent recovery from hardware or operating system failures. Traffic can continue flowing without interruption or rollback.

Advantages of VMware

Here are some of the major advantages of using VMware virtualization:

  • Increased Efficiency – Optimizes resource utilization by running multiple VMs on same hardware
  • Better Scalability – Allows adding compute capacity without disruption by dynamically provisioning new VMs
  • Enhanced Agility – Quick rollback or replication of VMs accelerates deployment of apps and infrastructure
  • Strengthened Availability – Minimizes planned and unplanned downtime using failover and redundancy mechanisms
  • Improved Operational Manageability – Simplifies monitoring, troubleshooting and administration through centralized dashboard
  • Reduced Costs – Lowers capital and operating expenses through higher consolidation ratios and automation
  • Increased Security – Isolates apps and data in secure VMs with role-based access and network micro-segmentation

Use cases of VMware

Some of the popular use cases where VMware virtualization delivers significant business value:

Data center modernization – Transform rigid infrastructure into software-defined, automated environment

Multi-cloud operations – Consistent operations and networking across on-premises data centers and public clouds

End-user computing – Secure digital workspaces delivered from any device or location

App modernization – Agile app development leveraging containers and Kubernetes

Networking and Security – Micro-segmentation, traffic flow isolation and built-in security

Business continuity – Minimize downtime and data loss through backup, replication and fault tolerance

VMware certifications

VMware offers industry-recognized certifications to validate expertise across virtualization and cloud computing areas:

  • VCP – VMware Certified Professional
  • VCIX – VMware Certified Implementation Expert
  • VCAP – VMware Certified Advanced Professional
  • VCDX – VMware Certified Design Expert

Getting certified helps professionals to stay competitive, open new job opportunities and boost partner engagements.


VMware provides a robust and secure software layer for compute, network and storage virtualization across on-prem and multi-cloud environments. It increases efficiency, agility and scalability while reducing hardware costs significantly. With a rich portfolio across infrastructure, end-user computing, networking and cloud, VMware delivers simplified and automated IT operations.


  1. What is VMware?
    VMware is a virtualization and cloud computing software provider. It enables virtualization for compute, storage and networking resources in data centers to run multiple virtual machines efficiently on a single physical server. 
  2. What components make up VMware architecture?
    The key components of VMware architecture include – ESXi hypervisor, vCenter Server, vSphere Client and modules for infrastructure services like high availability, fault tolerance, distributed resource scheduling etc. 
  3. What is vSphere ESXi?
    vSphere ESXi is bare-metal embedded hypervisor that installs directly on server hardware without separate OS to enable virtualization by partitioning resources between virtual machines. 
  4. What features does vCenter Server provide?
    vCenter Server enables unified management of VMware environment including complete inventory visibility, automation and orchestration, infrastructure monitoring, usage reporting and sophisticated policy enforcement. 
  5. What is VMware NSX?
    VMware NSX provides network visualization and security policies for virtual environments, with micro-segmentation, traffic isolation, advanced networking and built-in firewalling capabilities. 
  6. How does VMware achieve fault tolerance?
    VMware Fault Tolerance continuously replicates a protected virtual machine to an identical secondary VM on a separate host using vLockstep technology. This allows transparent failover in case of hardware failure or app crash. 
  7. What are some key benefits of using VMware?
    Benefits include increased efficiency, scalability and agility along with reduced costs, simplified management and enhanced security & availability through features like live migration, failover clustering, redundancy and backup mechanisms. 
  8. What are popular use cases for VMware virtualization?
    Key use cases include data center modernization, multi-cloud ops, digital workspaces, app modernization leveraging containers, micro-segmentation for security and business continuity solutions. 
  9. What VMware certifications can I obtain as a professional?
    VMware offers VCP, VCIX, VCAP and VCDX certifications to validate skills across virtualization, data center virtualization design and cloud platform implementation. 
  10. How is VMware different from other virtualization options?
    Unlike native hypervisors, VMware provides extensive infrastructure services, management capabilities, networking, availability features and an ecosystem of third-party interoperability. This provides a robust and secure solution.

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