Career / Career Progression

Intro to Virtualization

by Team Nuggets
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Updated on October 25, 2023

What is Virtualization?

Imagine you own a moving company, and you have a truck that can carry 500 cubic feet. One day, you get two jobs on the same day in two cities far apart – each for 250 cubic feet. If you could split your truck down the middle, you could take both jobs. But you can only choose one of the jobs – even if you could split your truck's storage space in half, you'd still need another engine, wheels, and driver. What a waste!

Trucks can't be arbitrarily divided. But it turns out that computers can be – with virtualization. Virtualization can pool and split up a computer's physical resources to create multiple instances of computer components or systems. So if we imagine that your truck is a computer – it still has a certain amount of memory and processing power, but it's possible to split it into two (or more) computers that perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

Virtualization aims to be more efficient with network and system resources and simplify IT infrastructure management. Multiple VMs or environments can run on one single physical machine – operating independently of one another. Virtualization doesn't just apply to computers. It can also work on networks, storage, and data.

All told, virtualization is capable of incredible and extremely varied things. As a career field, there are many opportunities, from technicians who maintain existing VM infrastructures to architects who dream up and design new ways to implement virtualization into a network.

Introduction to Virtualization Video Playlist

For visual learners, this free training video playlist will cover the basics of virtualization better than reading about it can. In this playlist, Jacob Moran explains what virtualization is, what a career in virtualization looks like, and what you need to learn if you want to use virtualization professionally. The videos can be watched in order, but feel free to skip to the topics that interest you most. 

These free videos are excerpts from the CBT Nuggets introduction to virtualization course, and watching them will give you a sense of what taking a course from CBT Nuggets is like. 

On top of that, you'll learn how many different fields and categories of IT are influenced by virtualization, plus what you can do to start learning virtualization skills and apply them to your normal job.

Understanding Virtualization

Virtualization is easy enough to understand when only looking at what it accomplishes. However, understanding how virtualization is possible or what's happening under the hood can be more challenging.

Defining Virtualization

Let's start with definitions of essential concepts in virtualization. A "simulation" is defined as imitating the function of one system or process employing the functioning of another. Therefore, virtualization is the process of simulating the behavior of real-world computers, servers, or networks with software. 

Virtualization is possible because of a concept called abstraction, which is a technical process of creating a layer of separation between users or applications and the details of the underlying hardware, software, or data sources. 

Through abstraction, it's possible to pool hardware and software resources so that those resources act as if they're one cohesive whole. Virtualization isn't simply a choice, though: it's a highly technical process, achieved with constantly evolving technologies that are decades old.

When we think of computers, memory, networks, and servers, we normally think of the physical objects that do those jobs. However, virtualization makes it possible for software applications to behave the same way as tangible devices.

Virtualized computers and devices are referred to as Virtual Machines (or VMs); usually, as far as an end user can tell, a VM is identical to a physical computer. All operating systems, memory, and applications can be wholly virtualized on VMs.

Basic Virtualization Concepts, Explained

The point of virtualization is to handle underutilization, high hardware costs, and software compatibility issues. Traditional physical setups will almost always end up with inefficient resource allocation since (like our truck analogy earlier) physical hardware can't be divided, and applications need specific hardware configurations. 

Two important virtualization concepts are hardware virtualization and software virtualization. Hardware virtualization is creating multiple virtual instances (VMs) on a single physical server. This is done with a piece of technology called a hypervisor.

Hypervisors allocate physical resources such as CPU, memory, and storage to each virtual machine. The hypervisor abstracts the underlying hardware, allowing multiple operating systems to run independently on the same physical hardware.

Software virtualization abstracts applications from the underlying operating system and hardware. Through virtualization, applications run in isolated environments, usually called containers. This isolation means applications don't conflict with each other and can be moved to different virtual hardware set-ups.

Benefits of Virtualization

Because hardware virtualization abstracts underlying hardware, the operating systems and applications running are isolated. This isolation provides enhanced security, efficient resource utilization, and the ability to consolidate multiple workloads on a single server.

Software virtualization contains and isolates applications virtually, which means it's beneficial for running legacy applications on modern systems, testing software in controlled environments, and achieving better resource utilization by sharing components across applications.

What Different Types of Virtualization are There?

As we dive deeper into virtualization, understanding the different types of virtualization can help explain the concept further while also introducing career paths and subjects that may interest you.

Server Virtualization Fundamentals

Server virtualization is a facet of virtualization that allows multiple virtual servers to run on one physical server. It depends on hypervisors, which allow the virtual servers (still called VMs) to share the same physical resources like CPU, memory, and storage.

Crucially, VMs are independent, even though they run on the same physical hardware. Server virtualization improves hardware utilization, cost savings, scalability, and easier management. Large data centers regularly use server virtualization, as it's a great way to optimize resource usage, enhance flexibility, and streamline IT operations.

Network Virtualization Basics

Network virtualization is a different use for virtualization: abstracting and separating the physical network infrastructure from the services that run on it. In this setup, virtual networks can be created, modified, and deleted independently of the underlying hardware. Virtualizing networks in this way means physical resources are more efficiently used and allocated, and network traffic remains isolated.

Network virtualization often complements software-defined networking (SDN) principles. In SDN environments, a controller manages data flow and configurations across the network. 

Businesses can make use of network virtualization in many different ways. Maybe flexible and dynamic network configurations are important, or faster provisioning of network services is needed. Network virtualization is particularly valuable in cloud computing environments since multiple tenants need isolated environments. 

Data Virtualization Concepts

Data virtualization refers to technologies that provide unified access to diverse data types, sources, and formats. At first glance, data virtualization may seem like data consolidation since it's a process of unifying the view of data from multiple sources and formats. But data virtualization uses abstraction technologies to bridge data consumers with data sources without moving or consolidating the data itself.

It's not a simple undertaking, but data virtualization technology abstracts data integration and presents a coherent, consistent view of data, even if distributed across databases, cloud storage, APIs, and more. Data virtualization software and platforms provide real-time data access, reduce duplication, and simplify integration processes.

Jobs and Getting Started: Virtualization Essentials

Virtualization isn't a single thing, and if you'd like to get a job in virtualization, there are many places you can start from. Whether you integrate virtualization software into your daily work or work exclusively with virtualization technologies on a large scale is up to you.

Virtualization Courses and Virtualization Training

Virtualization isn't a skill in and of itself – to learn virtualization, you have to learn the tools and software developed to provide virtualization. Many different companies provide virtualization solutions, and they do so with many different virtualization products.

Usually, it's relatively easy to find virtualization courses that cover skills and knowledge of a particular vendor. Still, you should also make sure you're choosing the right vendor for your career path.

VMware is a leader in virtualization. It offers data center virtualization products, software for network virtualization, cloud automation technology, virtualized end-user software, and specialized security technology for virtualized environments. Mastering every VMware tool and technology would be impossible, but you can start with an associate-level VMware virtualization course

Learning to use VMware's proprietary virtualization software vSphere is a great place to start your virtualization training journey and can lead to specialization in their other virtualization approaches.

Citrix is another big player in virtualization. Knowing how to install and configure a Citrix NetScaler load balancer from within a Citrix virtualized environment could mean the difference between landing a job as a virtualization professional or being passed over. 

Associate-level Citrix virtualization training is the right choice for anyone who wants to know more about virtualizing networks with Citrix's unique tools and technologies.

How Much Do Virtualization Jobs Pay?

Estimating how much a virtualization job pays is hard because the career field is still relatively small. Virtualization tends to be a specialization that IT professionals in more traditional roles like network architect or systems administrator learn and incorporate to their jobs.

While systems administrators aren't typically expected to know virtualization as a matter of course, senior systems administrators are often elevated to that position because of their niche or specialty knowledge – sometimes in virtualization.

CBT Nuggets found that senior systems administrators who can manage virtualization can earn, on average, $78,200/year. Network architects who can successfully implement virtualization technologies are in high demand, with national average salaries for virtualization-capable network architects going as high as $100,000/year, according to an analysis done by CBT Nuggets.

Virtualization Certification

As is often the case in IT, certifications are extremely valuable for advancing your career and qualifying for jobs and promotions. Many virtualization software companies also have certification programs that help administrators validate their skills. Some of the most popular virtualization certifications include:

  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator: Everything runs on an AWS network at one point or another. The SysOps Administrator is an Amazon cert that proves you can follow best practices for managing AWS environments, automating cloud resources, and troubleshooting virtual machines (VMs).

  • VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization: VMware is a heavy hitter in virtualization. Earning the VCP-DCV proves a general competence with VMware virtualization technologies and specific expertise using vSphere 7.x and managing ESXi.

  • Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate: Microsoft powers parts of nearly every network in the world, and knowing how to manage hybrid cloud environments is crucial for IT professionals working in virtualization. The WSHAA validates professional ability to manage Azure resources.

Virtualization is one of the most critical technological advances ever created. With virtualization, networks are more powerful, users are more secure, and applications can accomplish much more – all for much less cost and fewer resources. Companies seek trained virtualization professionals to make sense of their networks, VMs, and virtualized data.

One of the hardest things about learning virtualization is finding the right place for it to fit in a broader IT career field. There are many different fields in IT. Check out all of our Intro to IT trainings and learn more about how modern networks and devices operate.


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