Technology influences just about every aspect of life. Gone are the days of using super computers solely for government or business purposes. Today we have personal computers, smart phones, iPods, GPS devices, and a host of other gadgets to help us stay connected in a digital world. However, with the benefit of constant connectivity comes the increased risk of user fraud, viruses and security breaches. Businesses are greatly impacted by the downtime of critical applications and hardware. Costly computer attacks have greatly increased the importance of security and continuity for desktops and servers. One way in which companies are protecting their computing assets is by utilizing virtualization.
Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something. Software virtualization allows users to run multiple operating system images and different applications on a single piece of hardware. Each virtual machine can interact independently with other devices like the mouse, keyboard and monitor. Each virtual machine can also interact independently with other applications, data and users as though it were a separate physical machine. In reality, it is simply a logical partition. A key component to virtualization is the virtualization manager. Among other things, it is used to configure the operating system and applications that will exist on each of the virtual machines. A user with just one physical computer can decide to run Windows Vista and iTunes on one virtual machine and Windows XP and Rhapsody on another virtual machine. Virtualization is a very powerful concept; however, it is not new.
Virtualization was first developed by IBM in the 1960s. During this time, the government and corporations used mainframe computers. Mainframe computers were powerful, expensive, large scale computers that were used for critical applications. Virtualization was developed as a way to divide (or partition) large, mainframe computers into separate virtual machines. Mainframes were then able to run multiple applications at the same time using each of the partitions. Today, corporations operate globally. Teams are distributed across many locations and use a varying array of computing technology. By using virtualization companies can isolate flaws in their software and resolve them before it is distributed to end users. It may present some challenges, but any measures like virtualization that can be taken to limit or eliminate security risks should definitely be explored.