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Cloud computing and virtualization are not interchangeable terms, nor are they two different options to choose from when building your IT environment, system or networks. Virtualization was created in the 1960s to maximize hardware resources by creating a virtual layer on top of a host or a computer. Virtualization is at the core of cloud computing. Thanks to it, cloud vendors can provide a wide range of different services, operating systems and other virtual machines while maximizing data centers.

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What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing revolutionized IT infrastructures by removing hardware and software costs from the equation and allowing customers to access these resources via the internet. Cloud computing resources include physical and virtual services, applications, data storage, development tools, AI-powered services and VMs.

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Cloud assets are hosted at cloud data centers and managed by cloud service providers. Cloud computing allows companies to pay only for what they use, operate with high levels of security, automate with inbuilt cloud features and leverage innovations like machine learning.

Cloud computing can run on public clouds offered by vendors like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure Cloud and Amazon Web Services, or on private clouds.

Key features of cloud computing

  • Lowers costs while improving access to technology: Cloud computing allows organizations to access the latest technology while not investing in the expensive hardware and software that powers innovations.
  • Improves deployment and return on investment: Deploying IT systems in the cloud drastically reduces the time it takes for companies to begin operating, and it rapidly impacts performance and returns on investment.
  • Services, scale, support and security: Cloud vendors offer a wide range of services, full support for all level workers and built-in security, and these features reduce costs and can help improve business and strengthen its security posture — scaling in the cloud can be done in just a few clicks.
  • Virtualized IT: With cloud computing, organizations can quickly create their virtualized IT infrastructure — servers, operating systems, software, networks and other infrastructure.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization is the creation of VMs layered over a host. Using software called a hypervisor, users can create several VMs on their data servers, computers or hosts. For example, with virtualization, if a customer needs to run three different operating systems, macOS, Windows and Linux, instead of having to power up three machines, the user can create them virtually in just one data center or host.

While anyone can create their VM, in cloud computing, virtualization is taken to the limit. Virtualization is the essence of cloud computing. Cloud vendors make the most of their data centers and hosts by offering all kinds of VMs that can be deployed with just a few clicks. Virtualization not only saves time and money. VMs can move from one host to another almost instantly, avoiding the risks of downtime if one host shuts down.

The software that coordinates VMs on a host is called a hypervisor. It acts as an interface between the physical hardware and the VMs, ensuring all VMs have the processing power and resources they need from the hardware. VMs are, as the term implies, a device that only exists virtually, in the form of software. VMs can replicate operating systems or create virtual networks.

Type 1 hypervisors or “bare-metal” are the most common hypervisors used to create VM. They interact directly with the hardware and physical resources replacing the traditional operating system. Type 2 hypervisors run as an application on the OS installed in the main hardware and are primarily used in endpoint devices to run an alternative OS.

Key features of virtualization

  • Virtual machines: Virtualization creates VMs on main hosts.
  • Agility and performance: The ability to create VMs on one hardware gives companies endless possibilities to maximize resources.
  • Saves costs: Virtualization saves costs by creating VMs and IT infrastructure on the cloud or other data centers, and VMs also improve disaster recovery and business continuity.
  • Virtual OS and Virtual Networks: Organizations can leverage different OS and networks by deploying VMs, and this allows them to build sophisticated IT architectures while keeping costs low.
  • Support DevOps: VMs can easily be turned off or on, migrated and adapted, providing maximum flexibility for development, and they can also serve to test environments, rapidly migrate and consolidate systems in one server.

How do cloud computing and virtualization differ?

Without the concept of virtualization, there would be no cloud computing. The difference between cloud computing and virtualization is that the first is a term reserved for computing resources that are accessible on-demand via the internet. In contrast, virtualization refers to simply creating VMs that are solely software layered on top of a host or main hardware.

On the other hand, cloud computing is a broader term that encompasses everything that the cloud offers, from data storage to AI analytics. Cloud computing is a service usually offered to customers as Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service. While virtualization may also be provided as a service, it is more commonly used as a technical term. The term defines how hardware resources are used to create virtual networks and VMs.

The age of discovery

If you have a yearning for learning, check out TechRepublic’s recent articles on both these themes. There was insight about five cloud computing use cases and the top five trends to watch. We also analyzed virtualization’s benefits, drawbacks and defining features, and discussed nine things you shouldn’t virtualize.

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Subscribe to the Cloud Insider Newsletter

This is your go-to resource for the latest news and tips on the following topics and more, XaaS, AWS, Microsoft Azure, DevOps, virtualization, the hybrid cloud, and cloud security. Delivered Mondays and Wednesdays