What are the types of hypervisor?

A hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor, is software that creates and runs virtual machines (VMs) on a host machine. The hypervisor allows multiple VMs to run on a single host, sharing the resources of that one physical server across multiple environments.

There are two main types of hypervisors:

What are the types of hypervisor?

Type 1 Hypervisor

A Type 1 hypervisor runs directly on the system hardware, rather than within an operating system. It has direct access to the underlying hardware, so it provides near-native performance and greater stability/security.

Examples of Type 1 hypervisors include:

  • VMware ESXi: One of the most widely used bare-metal hypervisors installed directly on server hardware with a compact footprint.
  • Microsoft Hyper-V: Created by Microsoft as a native hypervisor for Windows and Windows Server, integrating tightly into those ecosystems.
  • Citrix XenServer: Based on open-source Xen project, providing an enterprise-class Type 1 hypervisor focused on security, reliability, and performance.


Some key advantages of Type 1 hypervisors:

  • Better performance – Direct hardware access avoids overhead caused by hosting OS
  • Enhanced security – Smaller attack surface as hypervisor sits directly on hardware
  • Higher reliability – Not dependent on hosting OS, less prone to crashes/stability issues
  • Scalability – Can manage large clusters with features like live migration of VMs between hosts
  • Guest OS support – Broad compatibility with many client & server operating systems

Type 2 Hypervisor

A Type 2 hypervisor runs as software on an operating system, like any other application. The OS provides abstraction from the hardware instead of the hypervisor software itself.

Examples of Type 2 hypervisors include:

  • VMware Workstation – For running multiple VMs on Windows or Linux PCs
  • Oracle VirtualBox – Popular open-source, enterprise-ready hypervisor
  • Windows Virtual PC – From Microsoft, designed for Windows hosts
  • Parallels Desktop – Primarily for Mac hardware and macOS/Windows guests


Benefits of Type 2 hypervisors include:

  • Easy installation – Can install on top of host OS quickly
  • Portability – Package with virtual machines for consistent environment
  • Development/testing – Useful for developers to test apps across platforms
  • Compatibility – Run legacy apps requiring older OSes unsupported by hardware
  • Cost – Leverage existing PC hardware instead of new servers

<table> <caption>**Comparison of Type 1 and Type 2 Hypervisors**</caption> <thead> <tr> <th></th> <th>Type 1</th> <th>Type 2</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><strong>Performance</strong></td> <td>Excellent</td> <td>Good</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Hardware Requirements</strong></td> <td>Server-grade</td> <td>Consumer PCs</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Security</strong></td> <td>Very High</td> <td>Moderate</td> </tr> </tbody> </table>

So in summary, the two hypervisor types have their pros and cons making them suitable for different needs:

  • Type 1 – For server/IT environments needing scalability, security and reliability
  • Type 2 – For local development/testing, legacy app compatibility, avoiding hardware costs

Pick the hypervisor model that aligns best with your use cases and technical requirements. Many organizations use a mix of both approaches to create virtualization infrastructure tailored to their needs.

Key Takeaway

The two main types of hypervisor virtualization software provide:

  • Type 1: Maximum performance, security and hardware optimization when installed directly onto infrastructure
  • Type 2: Quick setup and hardware flexibility by running as application layer on existing operating systems

Understanding these core hypervisor models allows appropriately leveraging their strengths based on factors like use case scenarios, production vs. testing needs, hardware environments, operational overhead and IT staff skills.


Hypervisors create and run virtual machines, enabling greater utilization of server hardware for resource sharing and workload consolidation across multiple isolated compute environments.

The two types have a set of distinct characteristics – Type 1 offers higher speed and stability by interacting directly with hardware, while Type 2 simplifies deployment as an application running atop a host operating system.

Choosing between them depends on balancing performance needs with implementation practicality across areas like security, hardware platforms, maintenance and cost. Optimizing these factors allows effectively harnessing virtualization to achieve flexibility, efficiency and scalability goals.


What is a Type 1 hypervisor?
A Type 1 hypervisor is installed directly on the bare-metal server hardware to control the hardware and manage guest operating systems. Examples include VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer.

What is a Type 2 hypervisor?
A Type 2 hypervisor is an application that runs on top of a traditional OS used to launch and manage virtual machines. Examples include VMware Workstation, Oracle VirtualBox, Windows Virtual PC, and Parallels Desktop.

Is a Type 1 hypervisor better?
Type 1 hypervisors generally provide better performance, security, and stability than Type 2 since they interface directly with the underlying hardware. But Type 2 hypervisors are easier to install and don’t require dedicated server infrastructure.

Is vSphere a Type 1 or Type 2 hypervisor?
vSphere utilizes VMware’s ESXi hypervisor, which is a Type 1 hypervisor purpose-built for enterprise production environments requiring high VM density and performance.

What’s the difference between VMware Workstation and ESXi?
VMware Workstation is a Type 2 desktop virtualization app for running VMs on Windows and Linux PCs; VMware ESXi is a Type 1 bare-metal hypervisor installed directly on data center server hardware for large-scale production virtualization.

Is Hyper-V Type 1 or Type 2?
Microsoft Hyper-V is a Type 1 native hypervisor that runs directly on Windows Server or the bare-metal system, providing good integration support within the Windows infrastructure stack.

Can you install Type 2 hypervisor on bare metal?
No, a Type 2 hypervisor requires an existing operating system to run on top of, while a “bare metal” server starts with a blank hardware slate. Type 1 hypervisors are built for direct installation on bare metal resources.

Is XenServer Type 1 or Type 2?
XenServer from Citrix utilizes the Xen open-source Type 1 hypervisor engine for native hardware access, management stacks, and enterprise capabilities tailored for virtual server and cloud workloads.

What OS does Type 1 hypervisor run?
Type 1 hypervisors don’t rely on traditional operating systems, instead running directly on server hardware and virtualizing resources for guests themselves. This contrasts Type 2 hypervisors which operate as a software layer on an OS like Windows/Linux.

Do you need vCenter for ESXi?
No, VMware ESXi hosts can be deployed independently to provide a Type 1 hypervisor foundation. But the vCenter management software enables centralized configuration, orchestration, monitoring and automation across large-scale ESXi infrastructure.

Is Hyper-V standalone?
Yes, Microsoft Hyper-V can operate in a standalone configuration on a single Windows Server instance providing Type 1 hypervisor capabilities for basic test/dev needs. The full capabilities are realized in highly-available failover clustering.

Which hypervisor is best for home lab?
For home lab virtualization, Type 2 hypervisors like VMware Workstation, Oracle VirtualBox and Hyper-V Client offer the easiest setup and hardware flexibility. Type 1 hypervisors excel in data center production use cases requiring heavy workloads.

Is VMware Player a hypervisor?
No. VMware Workstation and Fusion are full Type 2 hypervisor apps while VMware Player is a simpler container-style runtime for pre-built appliances not requiring hypervisor management functions.

What is VMware vSphere Hypervisor?
vSphere Hypervisor is a free ESXi-based Type 1 hypervisor from VMware allowing administrators to test vSphere functionality. vSphere is the enterprise management stack on top of the ESXi virtualization layer.

What hypervisor does AWS use?
Amazon EC2 partitions hardware using a highly customized Xen open-source hypervisor technology as the virtualization substrate, providing scalability, CPU optimization and security capabilities.

Leave a Comment