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What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine is a resource that utilises the software instead of a physical device to deploy applications and run programs. 

General Jul 30, 21 by Nisal N 6 min Read
What is a Virtual Machine?

VMs are generally used to test, run, or back up data In SaaS applications. 

Before we begin to understand the concept of virtual machines in detail, it is important to understand the integration of software and hardware in an operating system. 

Let’s begin!

Operating system

We use several gadgets in our day to day life. Right? Well, several electronic gadgets like smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc run because of an operating system. Some of the most common and widely used OSes are Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and Unix. 

The operating system controls and manages the device's hardware to provide benefits to the user.

An OS is like the foundation that helps you to carry out several tasks in your day to day life. For instance, an operating system runs several other pieces of software. If you want to download any file, it is the duty of the OS to filter out space on the hard drive for your file. Moreover, it also assists the web browser to run and provides it with appropriate amounts of RAM for smooth operations. 

Basically, there is only one operating system on a single device. But there are instances where the user needs more than one operating system on their device. 

To fulfil that requirement question is having two or more operating systems on a single device possible? Well in these technologically advanced times almost everything can be figured out! So the answer is, a yes. Let us show you how.

More than one operating system on one device

The answer to this need is virtualisation. The process of virtualisation lets the software act as an independent device. The software that we are talking about here is known as a virtual machine. It is sometimes called a guest computer too. 

This is our core topic too! 

With the concept of virtualisation, one device can manage two or more operating systems at the same time. But, The number of virtual machines that can run on a single host depends on the available resources by the host.

There are several types of virtualisation. Let us study about them first!

Types of virtualisation

  • Hardware virtualisation
  • Software virtualisation
  • Network virtualisation
  • Storage virtualisation
  • Desktop virtualisation

Hardware virtualisation: in hardware virtualisation, we create virtual versions of operating systems and computers. They are then amalgamated into a single primary server.

Software virtualisation: software virtualisation helps you to create a computer system with the hardware that permits more than one OSes to be able to manage and run on a physical host (like KVM).  

Network virtualisation: you can create various sub-networks on the same physical network by merging the equipment into a single virtual network resource. If you run a company with a large number of users, it is a good choice for you as it results in higher security, great network speed, and increased reliability.

Storage Virtualisation: in storage virtualisation, you have the comfort to combine various physical storage devices and present them as a single storage device. It also helps in disaster recovery planning as the data can be easily duplicated and transmitted to some other location.

Desktop virtualisation: This virtualisation bifurcates the desktop environment from physical devices. It further keeps a desktop on the remote server that allows the users to use their desktops from any location.

Now, moving on to the next segment let us understand the uses of virtual machines!

Uses of virtual machines

There are abundant features and uses of virtual machines. We are listing a few of them that help you in greater accessibility and ease. 

Take a look:

Testing: In order to test several applications in different environments, virtual machines come to the rescue. It is simple and cost-effective.

Run outdated software: There are some fragments of software that are not accessible in modern operating systems. If you wish to run these applications you can do that on a virtual machine.

Software designed for other Operating Systems: A virtual machine can manage and run software specially designed for some other operating system. For instance, if you are a Mac user and want to run the software design particularly for windows you can run Windows virtual machine on the Mac host. 

Virtual machines can manage legacy applications which implies that the cost of migration to a new OS is cut. They also provide you with integrated disaster recovery. 

Along with these some impressive features and advantages, there are also some disadvantages that you must know.

Disadvantages of virtual machines

As compared to physical computers, virtual machines are comparatively less efficient and slower. This is the reason that most of the businesses use both physical and virtual infrastructure together to maintain a balance.

Moreover, when you run several virtual machines on one physical device, it can result in some serious unstable performances. 

Well, moving on to the next segment there are two types of virtual machines. Read ahead to understand.

Types of virtual machines

  • Process virtual machine
  • System virtual machine

Process virtual machine: it permits a single process to act as an application on the host machine. And a great example of a process virtual machine is the Java virtual machine or more commonly known as JVM. It helps to run Java applications on an operating system as if it was already a part of the system.

System virtual machine: when we talk about a system platform it extends its support to sharing of a host computer's physical resources with several other virtual machines. Every virtual machine has its own copy of the OS. System virtual machine is dependent on a hypervisor or on the top of an OS. The hypervisor runs on certain hardware. 


As you have seen, virtual machines are basically computers that run inside other machines with the help of virtualisation.

This article helps you to gain a basic understanding of virtual machines along with their advantages, disadvantages, and several types. 

We hope that the information assists you in grasping the concept in the best way possible.

author img

Nisal N

Computers has always fascinated me since I was a kid and here we are. I love travelling for 2 reasons: the first one to see a new part of the world and second (the most important one) to experience the rich culture hidden among the country and people. I'm pretty good at cooking but very poor when it comes to baking.

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