HomeTechnologyCloud ComputingWhat Is The Role Of Virtualization In Cloud Computing

What Is The Role Of Virtualization In Cloud Computing

Cloud computing came into being much later than its underlying technologies. Today, cloud computing is a utility (not to be confused with utility computing) more than a technology. This view might be contested by many, but in a way, it is a utility used to host services, sell products online, store data, and much more. You pay for your usage, nothing more, nothing less.

Cloud computing is a term given to various services run from a network of machines on the internet. These include services like SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, and many more. If you have a set of machines that you can lend for computing services over the internet in a measurable, billable way, you are in business; you have cloud computing.

The description above is trivial, no doubt, but it connects well with its definition at a conceptual level. The term cloud computing is said to have been used first in the year 2006 by Eric Schmidt, the then Google CEO. Quoting Wikipedia, “Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources like storage, computing power, without direct active management by the user.” Cloud is a term loosely used in networking for a bunch of interconnected computers.

As mentioned earlier, the underlying technology used in cloud computing was invented and in use much earlier. There are various technologies that were purpose-built for specific use cases. In the broader scheme of things in cloud computing, these technologies were employed to host appropriate products and services.

The Technology behind Cloud Computing

Some of the underlying technologies used in cloud computing are – Virtualization, Service Oriented Architecture, Utility Computing, and Grid Computing. Cloud computing is a service offered over the internet, and different services under the hood use different technologies.

Let’s briefly go through these technologies and then dig deeper into virtualization.

Virtualization, to put it simply, is the process of making a hardware resource virtually available for use, just like any other computing resource. A simple example is using a Linux system in a virtual environment on top of a Windows PC. It is akin to simulation for the uninitiated, but mind you, it is not simulation exactly. If that has confused you, wait until we fully take up the virtualization topic in further sections below.

Service-Oriented Architecture or SOA is a framework or architectural style that promotes services-based system design. In other words, the entire application system is seen as a set of services. A service is a distinct unit of functionality, remotely accessible, updated, and acted on independently. The idea is to have a level of abstraction independent of products and vendors.

In Utility Computing, computing services are provided on demand. The user usually is charged for the period of usage of these computing resources. A simple case in point is online storage for storing photos, like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

Grid Computing is a distributed computer at your service. It makes a distributed hardware system available, controlled by a specialized distributed operating system that is aware of how to handle data and resources across the distributed hardware. The distributed hardware is composed of independent nodes or computers, interconnected to enable processing a single humongous task across several processors.

Where does virtualization fit in

We will need to define or elaborate on virtualization a bit more before we discuss how virtualization is used in cloud computing.

The word virtualization, by definition, means making some resource available for use virtually. The concept of virtualization, when extended to computing resources, means making a virtual machine available for use, running its own operating system on another host machine.

A virtual machine is the allocation of computing resources like processor, memory, and storage to create an additional computing resource on the hosting system. For example, you can create a virtual machine with a particular memory and storage capacity, running an operating system of your choice on top of a Windows machine.

This technology lends itself beautifully to the concept of cloud computing, allowing running machines of various configurations loaded with any operating system over the internet and to scale.

The availability of machines of various configurations with an operating system of choice has brought in a revolution in IT infrastructure spending. Businesses no longer have to spend massive capital in acquiring IT hardware required for development and testing. Besides, you only spend for what you use and discard when you no longer need the resources.

Virtualization allows IT provisioning on demand and is the foundational technology on which cloud-based provisioning is based. It will enable cloud hosting businesses to efficiently segment their IT hardware resources and make them available for dynamic provisioning over the internet.

Advantages of using virtualization in cloud computing

  • The USP of virtualization for cloud computing businesses is the maximum utilization of investment in hardware resources
  • The need for investment in physical hardware for development and testing purposes is virtually eliminated
  • Users can run a variety of operating systems and flavors on the same physical hardware
  • Virtualization increases the availability of critical resources with virtually zero downtimes
  • With virtualization, it is easy to quickly scale up or down hardware resources as per changing business dynamics
  • Using virtualization, you can ensure clean booted machines. This is important for allowing the development of software packages with dependency on operating system modules. This also eliminates various issues in testing that can be brought about by slight differences in OS instances
  • Virtualization allows isolation of services with each service running on its own virtual machine, also called jailing of services


Virtualization has revolutionized cloud computing with increased capacity utilization, scaled up performance, improved business continuity, and a drastic reduction in IT hardware spend. Virtualization is only going to get better and more prevalent in the future.

Upskilling with cloud computing training is the industry mandate, which teaches you everything about virtualization. You could take up industry-recognized certification on cloud computing courses and programs at Greatlearning in collaboration with Great Lakes.

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