A few years ago, the virtual machine (VM) concept was alien to many. In fact, before VM technology, companies had to install hardware and software for each physical server. Today, with the introduction of virtual machines, one physical server can host multiple virtual servers in different configurations. But what is a virtual machine? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of implementing virtual machines? More importantly, does a virtual machine require hardware?
A virtual machine (VM) is a technology that allows you to run many operating systems simultaneously on a single piece of hardware. VMs will enable you to create a virtual environment on your computer. This environment allows you to install new software and programs without affecting the existing system.
Virtual machine software creates virtual platforms—a combination of hardware and software resources. It enables the user to run multiple operating systems on the same physical machine by partitioning the computer memory into multiple segments. This allows each virtual platform to operate independently and helps meet various application requirements.
A virtual machine does require hardware to run. However, it's not additional hardware per se. Instead, it allocates resources from your existing hardware. For instance, the virtual machine will use part of your computer's hard drive as storage and dedicate a portion of its RAM.
Because of how virtual machines work, they provide several advantages compared to traditional physical servers. However, VMs also presents some drawbacks worth noting.
This article will discuss virtual machine advantages and disadvantages in detail so that you can decide whether or not it's the right choice for you.
Advantages of Virtual Machines
Before you decide whether to implement this technology, you must understand the benefits of virtual machine technology in operating systems. That said, here are some of the top benefits and features of a virtual machine in OS:
Cost Efficiency: One of the biggest advantages of virtual machines over physical servers is that they require fewer hardware resources. This translates into cost savings as you don't need additional hard drives or server space because a single machine can host multiple VMs and run multiple applications.
Security: Since each virtual machine runs independently, it's isolated from other machines. This helps provide a greater level of security for each machine, as any malware or malicious attacks will not spread across multiple machines.
Flexibility: This is one of the advantages of virtual machines in cloud computing. Since virtual machines are software-based, it is easy to spin up new ones if needed. This makes it incredibly convenient to scale your computing resources per your needs without purchasing additional hardware.
Ease of Use: Virtual machines are incredibly easy to manage as you don't have to worry about each machine's hardware or software configurations. You can install the VM software and create new virtual environments with a few clicks.
Platform Independence: Virtual machines are independent, meaning you can simultaneously run multiple operating systems on the same hardware. This is especially useful for testing and development because you can test specific applications on different operating systems.
Enhanced Employee Efficiency and Productivity: With VMs, employees can access their work from any device, anytime, anywhere. They can collaborate on joint projects without being physically available, improving their efficiency and productivity.
ISA Structure: Virtual machines come designed with an instruction set architecture (ISA) structure. An ISA is a set of instructions that a processor understands, which makes it easier to design and manage the VM. ISA provides access to the system's underlying hardware and allows software developers to code applications that run on any hardware or operating system.
Quick Disaster Recovery: The importance of virtual machines in cloud computing can't be overstated regarding disaster recovery. You can easily back up and recover virtual machines. Moreover, since each virtual environment is independent, the running applications and data remain safe in case of a system crash or hardware failure.
Disadvantages of Virtual Machines
Overall, virtual machines have a lot of advantages that can benefit businesses. However, virtual machines have some downsides you must consider before implementing them. Here are some of the main disadvantages of virtual machines in operating systems:
Performance Issues: Although virtual machines can benefit businesses in terms of cost efficiency and flexibility, they can also cause performance issues if not configured properly. Since multiple virtual machines share the same hardware resources, it can lead to decreased performance and efficiency.
High Initial Costs: Implementing virtual machines can be expensive as you must purchase the VM software and storage space. This makes it costlier than installing physical servers for each application. The disadvantages of virtual machines in cloud computing include the cost of cloud hosting platforms.
Security Risks: Although VMs are more secure than traditional physical servers, they still come with security risks, such as malware and malicious attacks within the virtual environment. To ensure maximum security, it is important to configure the VMs properly and use advanced security tools.
Complexity: Virtual machines are software-based and can be complex to understand. Therefore, you need expert help to configure and manage these systems. This can be very costly if you don't have an in-house IT team.
Server Sprawl: Virtual machines are easy to spin up and manage. This can lead to server sprawl when you create too many VMs you don't actively use. Eventually, your hardware and maintenance costs may be too high to afford.
Features of Virtual Machines
A look at the core features of this technology can better help you to understand the advantages and disadvantages of virtual machines. That said, here are some of the core features of virtual machine in OS that make VMs so powerful:
Multi-tenancy: This is one of the key features of virtual machines in cloud computing. Multi-tenancy allows multiple users to access a single physical server or cloud platform. This feature makes virtual machines ideal for resource sharing — multiple users can access the same resources.
Isolation: Each virtual machine is isolated from other machines and only has access to its resources — helping to protect it from malicious attacks and malware.
Portability: Virtual machines are transferrable between different platforms or hardware configurations — making it easy to scale the computing resources as per your needs.
Resource Optimization: This feature allows virtual machines to use hardware resources more efficiently by sharing them across multiple machines. This helps improve performance and reduces costs, as you don't have to purchase additional hardware for each application or server.
Virtual Machine Examples
One of the best examples of a virtual machine setup is using Scale Computing HyperCore, which is widely regarded as one of the best systems to run virtual machines on a Windows 10 operating system. This software provides flexibility and robust performance, which makes it a great choice for beginners and seasoned professionals.
Creating a virtual machine is a simple process accomplished through the SC//HyperCore interface in a single dialogue box. The interface is also used to upload Operating System and Virtual Appliance ISO installation images for VM installation as part of the VM creation process (ISOs are virtual DVD / CD images). ISO images can be uploaded by drag-and-drop anywhere on the HyperCore UI, or you can manage and upload ISOs through the media tab in the SC//HyperCore Control Center console. Once uploaded, ISO images are available for use by any future VMs.
Selecting the Create VM option (the + icon in the UI) right from the main VM management screen allows the user to specify required and optional parameters for the virtual machine, including:
- VM name and optional description
- Optional tags that allow logical VM grouping (the VM name, description, and tags are searchable and filterable in the main VM management screen)
- Number of virtual CPU cores
- VM RAM
- Number and size of virtual, thin provisioned disks
- A previously uploaded virtual DVD/CD ISO image for installing an operating system
Creating a virtual machine creates not only persistent VM configuration parameters but also creates virtual disks using the SCRIBE distributed storage pool that attaches to the VM when started. SC//HyperCore VMs can access their virtual disks directly as if they are local disks without using any SAN or NAS protocols, regardless of which node the VM is running on at the time.
Because all SC//HyperCore capable nodes have access to the entire pool of storage, virtual machine placement on nodes is determined by the availability of compute resources (RAM and CPU).