Virtualization Is Key to the Future of IT. Therefore ... What?

Virtualization is a great are to focus your IT learning.

Virtualization, which grabs and uses real, physical computing resources — including, most notably, CPU cycles, storage space, and networking capabilities — to create and stand up oodles of virtual machines. has become the foundation for modern computing. This is particularly true for anything having to do with the cloud.


Thus, I'd assert with great confidence that it behooves all IT pros to learn and know at least a little something about this kind of technology. And where their technical specialties come into play, it probably makes sense to dig in and learn as much as possible about how, when, and why virtualization plays a role in the forms in which related services and applications get delivered, via the cloud or through other means.


Obvious Point of Departure 1: Your Friendly Local OS


Chances are nearly 100 percent that you already have one or more virtualization environments available to you, courtesy of whatever OS you run on your desktop or laptop PC. Windows users probably have the greatest range of choices, simply because of its widespread adoption and use.


In addition to Microsoft's own built-in Hyper-V hypervisor (the environment that lets users define, provision, and run virtual machines, or VMs, is called a hypervisor), Windows users can choose to run virtual environments from numerous third-parties as well. Some of these are free, and some cost money — VMware, for example, offers the free VMware Player as well as various for-a-fee versions of VMware Workstation.


Other Windows options include Oracle's VirtualBox (free), plus a number of lesser-known options (see the Wikipedia char labeled Comparison of platform virtualization software for the most complete list of guest and host OSes I could find anywhere). Macintosh users can opt for Apple's free Boot Camp hypervisor, but most tend to spend the $80 or so it costs to license Corel's more capable Parallels hypervisor instead.


Linux users have the greatest variety of virtualization software options available to them (both free and paid) simply because (a) most data centers and cloud providers run Linux as their native server OS, and (b) Open Source software is firmly entrenched in the Linux community. This actually leads to the next point of my story.


Those Who Are Really Serious About Virtualization Will Want to Learn (and Use) Linux


Virtualization is a great are to focus your IT learning.

If you look at commercial servers around the world, including those that provide the cloud in all its many forms to consumers of cloud-based infrastructures, platforms, services, and applications, you'll soon learn that the vast majority of them run some version of Linux on the hardware, and consume a great many more Linux-based VMs than Windows-based ones.


Even Microsoft has had to become more catholic in its approach: Today, its Azure cloud environment spawns Linux and Windows VMs with equal facility. Windows 10 has also become ever more accommodating of Linux, thanks to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) support for Linux within the Windows OS, along with Hyper-V's ability to accommodate both Linux and Windows VMs.


Specific versions of Linux have been developed as "network operating systems" that run on switches, and provide fully virtualized complex, networking environments. Thus, for example, Nvidia subsidiary Cumulus Networks offers a free virtual appliance called Cumulus VX that runs on KVM (a Linux-based or bare-metal hypervisor), Virtualbox (from a provider or as a local hypervisor), and Vagrant (from a libvirt provider).


Cumulus Networks' offering is based around Cumulus Linux, which adds a Network Command Line Utility (NCLU) to the basic Linux environment. This supports configuration, provisioning, and virtualization of network switches to support fully virtualized network infrastructures and let people learn about complex routing protocols such as BGP, XBGP, OSPF, and so forth.


Other network players also offer virtualized toolsets and learning environments for their networking products and services as well, so they're worth looking into as well, if networking is your thing.


Getting Started with Virtualization


Virtualization is a great are to focus your IT learning.

Those starting cold on virtualization should pick a hypervisor already at their disposal. If that means either Hyper-V or VMware, then Rick Crisci offers a free Crash Course (1 hour) at Udemy to help people get started. Microsoft, of course, offers all kinds of free (and for-a-fee) training on Hyper-V and virtualization, as do many other training providers.


You can check out this Google Search for some options, or visit the excellent and free tutorials). Likewise, one could search on "free Parallels training," "free VMware Player training," "free Oracle Virtualbox training," and so forth, to find sources of potential insight and information. If you've got some time for learning, then this could be a great way to spend it.


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

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.