What are virtual machines (VMs)?

The use of cloud infrastructure to replace legacy systems allows organisations to reduce the capital costs of buying IT hardware.  This migration process requires the virtual infrastructure to be specified in the same way as a physical data centre.  This specification process involves determining the processing power required to maximise application performance and designing a solution that delivers this using “virtual machines” or “VMs” in place of physical Servers.

What is a Virtual Machine (VM)?

Simply put, a virtual machine is a software implementation of a physical computer – in cloud computing, this is generally a replacement for an on-premise server or dedicated hosted server. They provide the same functionality as physical computers running applications and an operating system but there can be multiple VMs on one physical computer.

A business can run multiple virtual machines on the same physical server without them affecting one another or the computer they are running on; a VM is isolated from the rest of the system.

There are two types of virtual machines. The first, called a system virtual machine, mimics a real computer with all the same components and processes. It allows a single server to be used as multiple machines and can run multiple operating systems. The second type is called a process virtual machine which is used to run a single application or process. This VM doesn’t exist when the application is not in use.

Virtual machines are a perfect solution for small, medium and even large businesses that offers the ability for organisations to customise the machine according to their needs.

The benefits of virtual machines

Unlike physical hardware, virtual machines offer great flexibility which brings great benefits to how you manage your infrastructure.

Scalability: As businesses grow or their requirements change a VM can be upgraded adding new processing power or storage capacity. This scalability means that organisations don’t have to keep buying newer or more powerful machines to add resources such as additional RAM or more space. A VM can be upgraded virtually rather than physically saving time and resources.

Backup and Recovery: Azure has been designed by Microsoft with backup and recovery at its core. Unlike physical machines with VMs companies don’t have to worry anymore about the failure of hardware. All data and applications are stored in the cloud and in the event of failure, it is shifted swiftly to alternate sites without any downtime.

Cloning: Considerable resources are spent configuring servers to meet requirements. On physical solutions, this must be replicated whereas using a VM means that this can be done in just a few clicks. This significantly reduces costs and time to complete. Once the first VM is configured it can be used as a template to clone again and again.

Cost: The main driver for companies to move to the cloud is to save money and this is particularly true with virtual machines. Setting up a VM means that the company save the capital cost of buying hardware and the costs associated with upgrades. In addition, with cloud solutions like Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, you only pay for computing time and the storage space needed.

Support costs: Moving away from on-premise machines to virtual machines allows ISVs to make considerable financial and time savings from their own technical support teams. In most cases, the maintenance of VMs is carried out by the data centre operators which means that internal teams can concentrate on supporting the applications rather than the hardware which saves both resource and training costs.

Virtual machines can save significant amounts of time and money for many businesses. They allow businesses to be flexible, virtualise work environments, and allow team members to work remotely. More and more businesses are using virtual machines due to the simplicity for end users and IT professionals alike and as the demand for cloud-based applications grows so will the use of VMs instead of physical on-premise solutions.


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