In computing, virtualization (or virtualisation) is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as a hardware platform, operating system, storage device, or network resources.
While a physical computer in the classical sense is clearly a complete and actual machine, both subjectively (from the user’s point of view) and objectively (from the hardware system administrator‘s point of view), a virtual machine is subjectively a complete machine (or very close), but objectively merely a set of files and running programs on an actual, physical machine (which the user need not necessarily be aware of).
Virtualization can be viewed as part of an overall trend in enterprise IT that includes autonomic computing, a scenario in which the IT environment will be able to manage itself based on perceived activity, and utility computing, in which computer processing power is seen as a utility that clients can pay for only as needed. The usual goal of virtualization is to centralize administrative tasks while improving scalability and overall hardware-resource utilization. With virtualization, several operating systems (OSs) can be run in parallel on a single CPU. This parallelism tends to reduce overhead costs and differs from multitasking, which involves running several programs on the same OS.
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