VM (Virtual Machine) is used across many industries and use cases to provide flexibility, scalability, and efficiency for computing workloads. Understanding where VMs are commonly used can help guide technology decisions.
Uses of Virtual Machines
Virtual machines are the foundation of cloud computing platforms from providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Cloud VMs allow fast provisioning of compute resources that can be scaled up or down on demand. Key uses of cloud VMs include:
- Web/app hosting – Cloud VMs provide scalable and resilient hosting platforms for web sites, web apps, APIs, SaaS apps, and mobile backends. Easy vertical and horizontal scaling.
- Application development – Cloud developer VMs and sandbox environments facilitate rapid coding and testing of software.
- Big data and analytics – VMs handle data ingestion, processing and analytics in a distributed manner via services like HDInsight and Amazon EMR.
- Artificial Intelligence – GPU accelerated VMs from cloud providers train AI/ML models faster. NVIDIA Cloud VMs optimize deep learning.
Software Development & Testing
Developers use VMs for efficient coding, building, and testing of applications across multiple environments including:
- Development environments – Developer desktop VMs allow working in standardized environments regardless of host OS.
- Staging environments – Mimic production application deployment on VM based staging environments for final testing.
- Automated testing – Run UI automation test suites in identical VM environment for consistent testing.
- Sandboxing – Safely test/run untrusted code in sandboxed VMs isolated from host systems.
Virtual machine deployment facilitates server consolidation which reduces datacenter costs through:
- Running multiple VMs supporting different services on a single physical server and optimizing hardware resource usage.
- Live migration of VMs between hosts for load balancing, hardware maintenance.
- Right sizing VMs to application resource needs improves utilization over dedicated servers.
- Failover VMs provide redundancy and minimize downtime. They take over processing in case primary infrastructure fails due to outages/disasters.
- Backups/snapshots of VMs can facilitate quick recovery from corruption or accidental deletions. Backups are stored remotely.
Key Benefits of Virtual Machines
What makes virtual machines integral to modern IT environments?
Isolation and security
- VMs isolate compute environments between tenants and applications improving security.
Encapsulation and portability
- VMs allow encapsulating entire application environment into portable images/templates easing deployment.
Scalability and elasticity
- Workloads can be provisioned or deprovisioned quickly through horizontal/vertical scaling to meet changing demands.
- Consolidating applications on shared hardware improves utilization rates vs dedicated physical servers.
Agility and automation
- Automated VM provisioning, configuration and infrastructure orchestration enhances IT agility.
Additional Use Cases
Some other examples of VM adoption include:
- Desktop/browser virtualization for delivering persistent or non-persistent desktops
- Network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking
- Edge computing on virtualized infrastructure placed closer to end users
- Gaming/graphics intensive applications through GPU pass-through technologies
- Mainframe virtualization via IBM z/VM, Hitachi Virtage, Fujitsu PRIMEFORCE
Virtual machines are leveraged extensively across cloud computing and on-premise infrastructure due to benefits like security, scalability and portability.
Key enterprise use cases include cloud hosting, software development/testing, server consolidation and disaster recovery/failover.
Benefits like utilization efficiency, automation and encapsulation drive adoption in modern IT environments.
Additionally VMs facilitate new paradigms like desktop/browser virtualization, software defined infrastructure, edge computing and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a virtual machine (VM)?
A VM is an emulation of a computer system implemented through software virtualization. VMs run on top of physical hardware, with a hypervisor allocating resources to each VM.
- How do VMs compare to containers in usage?
Containers package application code with dependencies for predictable execution across environments but share a host kernel. VMs virtualize an entire guest operating system on top of host hardware/hypervisor.
- Why are VMs important for software development?
Developer VMs provide isolated and portable environments to code, build, test and stage applications consistently across teams before deploying to production infrastructure.
- Do VMs improve server efficiency?
Yes, server consolidation using VMs can lead to higher utilization rates compared to one application per physical server. Unused resources can be de-allocated from underutilized VMs.
- How does cloud computing use virtualization?
Cloud providers use hypervisor-based virtualization to offer customers on-demand access to compute, storage and network resources by spinning up VMs and allocating resources from shared infrastructure.
- Are VMs less secure than containers or physical servers?
VMs provide strong isolation between workloads and user traffic. Cloud VMs allow fine grained access controls. Proper security procedures must be followed when configuring VMs.
- Can VMs be used for edge computing use cases?
Yes, running applications closer to end users reduces latency. Virtualized infrastructure is easier to scale out geographically to distributed edge locations compared to physical hardware.
- Are mainframes still virtualized even with modern cloud adoption?
Mainframe virtualization remains critical in many organizations to consolidate large scale transaction processing applications like ERPs onto fewer physical mainframes while improving utilization.
- Can VMs facilitate disaster recovery strategies?
Yes, organizations replicate application VMs and data to remote DR sites. In case of disruptions to a primary data center, failover can be invoked to a secondary warm/hot site running DR VMs.
- What major hypervisor platforms are used for virtualization?
Leading hypervisor platforms include VMware vSphere/ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV and OpenStack.
Virtual machine adoption shows no signs of slowing down with usage expanding across areas like mainstream cloud computing, software-defined infrastructure, desktop virtualization and AI/ML workloads.As long as efficiency, flexibility and fault tolerance remain priorities for IT teams while managing technical debt, VMs will continue proving versatile options vs solely physical deployments.With compelling capabilities for enhancing security, cost savings and taking advantage of automation, VMs will likely serve as vital pillars upholding enterprise systems for the foreseeable future even with the rise of complementary technologies like containers.