An Introduction to the Booming IT Realm of Virtualization

Abstract futuristic background stretching off in the distance

Today we're going to talk about applications inside of applications! Systems inside systems! Computers within computers! Prepare your brainwrinkles for �


Computerception. Your mind is the scene of the crime.


I know it's not funny — even Leonardo DiCaprio is shaking his head sadly. (It stopped spinning! I saw it stop spinning JUST before the cut.) Just work with me. To put it in less Christopher Nolan-esque terms, today's topic is virtualization, which is the art of building a virtual machine, including operating system, that runs inside another machine.


Such a virtual machine is known as the "Guest" or "Guests" and is usually managed by a hypervisor program. Among civilians, the most common motivation for virtualization is simply to run applications on your computer that your OS doesn't support. It can, however, also be used to quickly troubleshoot or develop applications that you may not want on your native OS, which is why virtualization is fairly common in Quality Assurance scenarios. It can also be used to set up a virtual network and run limited-scope experiments without actually hooking up multiple physical devices to a network.


In my case, virtualization is how I got the "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" experience long after the N64 had gone the way of all the Earth, and how I experienced several of the Pokemon games after the Gameboy had wheezed its last breath.


So far, pretty straightforward, right? Well, here's where things get interesting (and only 200 words in!) One could expect the demand for virtualization to grow at about the same rate as the rest of the industry, but as of late the demand for network engineers and administrators who can deploy and manage virtualization-based solutions has heated up significantly. Strangely enough, this correlates strongly with the increased reliance on Cloud Computing. Coincidence? I think not! We're simply seeing an increased demand for another kind of virtualization: server virtualization. As more and more people rely on the cloud, the demand for applications that can run there grows as well.


A huge component of Server Virtualization is scalability, or the process of allocating more hard resources to bigger tasks and fewer to easier ones. This is where the hypervisor gets a chance to prove itself. The hypervisor monitors the resource usage of the virtual machine or machines and allocates resources accordingly. This is the backbone of cloud computing; instead of wasting machine power by dedicating a machine to a single task, all tasks can be divvied up and system resources spread out accordingly.


So, let's talk major players. Of course, the finger-in-every-pie giants hold respectable places on the list. Amazon, Microsoft, Red Hat and Oracle are all heavyweights in this field — but bro, everybody knows they're posers. In every virtualization list, two old-money blue-bloods consistently rise to the top: VMware and the honorable Citrix.


Virtualization cartoon

Founded back in 1998, VMware remains as much a powerhouse as it ever was, and as we've established, it still has growing room. Known for its shrewd business strategies and stiffly-reliable product offerings, it easily corners the server virtualization market at almost 65 percent market share. And they got certs, too! A lot of certs. Like, usually I'd list them in some fashion, but maybe it'd be better if you just look for yourself.


Citrix plays a little bit of a different game. Founded a full nine years before VMware, Citrix offers a wider range of products and services but is also fighting for a bigger piece of the Server Virtualization pizza. Its real strength, however, is in VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Even here it's wresting against VMware for market dominance, but here it's quickly gaining ground against its specialized competitor. And since we're here to talk certs, let's talk about Citrix's big one; The Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V). Originally the Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer for Virtualization (which was recognized by as one of the most marketable certifications of 2015), Citrix offers Associate, Professional, and Expert tiers of this certification. Applicants will want to schedule with Pearson VUE to take this exam.


If your interest is piqued, now is a great time to get involved in virtualization. Just remember to take proper precautions, and remember: If you die in the virtual machine, you die in real life. Happy virtualizing!


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author
David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.