40 NEWEQUIPMENT.COM I DECEMBER 2020CHECKLIST
Learn about the five key types of virtualization and their benefits in manufacturing.
Virtualization has been around in various forms ince the early days of mainframe computers in the 60s and 70s. It’s the practice of creating virtual components, applications, and operatingsystems within a device such as CPU, drives, and connectors which are created and assigned to physical memory andhardware. Although not always realized, interactions withdifferent forms of virtualization occur every day from cloudservices to running Windows programs on a Mac and playing old video games using an emulator. So why not leveragethese tools’ potential for the work environment?
There are five key types of virtualization, each of whichbrings its own unique benefits to the table: Desktop Virtualization, Application Virtualization, Server Virtualization,Storage Virtualization, and Network Virtualization.
Server Virtualization is one of the most common formsof virtualization in the workplace. It’s the process of creatingmultiple virtual servers, each with their own operating system, on a single physical server. A virtualization layer calleda hypervisor is installed directly onto the server hardwarein place of the operating system. The hypervisor can simulate several virtual versions of the hardware to use as separate virtual servers, each with its own operating system andapplications. These servers can work as storage locationsor house applications with high performance or memoryneeds. It even makes backups easier as the entire virtualserver can be replicated to a secondary location.
The most common example of virtual servers are cloudservers. Cloud service providers use virtualization to maintain servers, applications, and file storage for many differentcompanies and users in a single server bank. While cloudservers allow for easy remote access this can also be done onlocal servers to optimize server use.
Desktop Virtualization is the process of creating a virtual machine. A virtual machine is a virtual workspace withan operating system and simulated hardware. It is accessedthrough a physical device, such as a computer. The local operating system or host operating system requires a virtualization layer that communicates between the virtual machineand the host operating system to control the inputs, outputs,physical resources, and memory used by the VM and returned to the host.
Adding a cloud server allows users to connect remotely to aworkstation with far greater physical resources available. Thisis especially helpful in a remote work environment where theuser only has access to a laptop or home computer. The memory and processing power are all managed on the server thatthe virtual machine is stored on and the connection is onlylimited by the internet or network connection speed.
Application virtualization can be lookedat as a condensed virtual machine. It’s anexecutable file or application that doesn’t include its own operating system; instead, thevirtualization layer is designed to communicate directly between the application andhost operating system. These applicationstypically exist in a sandbox that separatesthem from the host operating system andtherefore are not installed like traditionalapplications and can be run remotely.
These applications are of great benefit toIT and commonly used for company-widesoftware deployment. They are easy toshare and run because they don’t requireinstallation. This also means updating orremoving the application only requires replacing or deleting the files which can bestored and accessed from a central server location ratherthan needing to be on the physical computer.
As a side effect of their disconnected nature, virtual applications tend to be safer than installed applications. Theycan’t corrupt other applications during the installation process, avoid problems from operating system updates, andcan have multiple versions or releases running without interfering with each other.
Storage virtualization is a system that goes back to thetime of mainframe computers. While storage virtualizationcan refer to the allocation of memory resources within asingle device among its virtual components, it’s more oftenused when discussing a memory pool. A memory pool allocates all the physical components and memory of multiplecomputers or servers to create one large virtual device. Bythen running virtual machines on top of the memory pooleach user has access to a larger shared memory which canbe allocated to devices that need more, so no one computerunder or over utilizes its memory.
This is particularly useful for design and manufacturingteams that commonly run into problems with over or un-derutilizing their hardware. If one user requires more processing power or memory the resources can be reallocatedto them, especially for processes run outside work hourslike backups. The additional unused hardware is pooled toassist with the process.
Network virtualization is the creation of a virtual network connection between physical and virtual machinesand servers. It’s typically distinguished by two categories:internal and external virtual networks.
External virtual networks are virtual connections implemented over the infrastructure of a physical network.The virtual networks can be used to combine and subdivide physical networks. The users can then interactwith the virtual network as if it were a physical network,while the physical network just transfers the data packets. Virtual networks allow for easier access and control,as they can be changed as needed by IT or an administrator without making physical changes, and can provideremote network access.
Internal virtual networks are networks created betweenvirtual machines stored on the same server. This allows forthe connections and central storage locations for a groupof virtual machines to all be housed on the same server. Byconnecting to the server, users are able to access all necessary apps and data through the virtual machine and virtualnetwork and collaborate in the virtual environment.
In manufacturing, external networks are typically used,but a combination of the two can be utilized for an evenmore versatile environment. With a configurable networkthat can be run across virtual and physical connections, theworkstation on the manufacturing floor can be connectedto the engineers in the office and working remotely.
Benefits of Virtualizationin Manufacturing
Virtualization allows for more productive use of resources,better connectivity across a company, and more control of assets. These tools are useful in manufacturing and office environments, and a game-changer in a remote work environment which, when paired together, can completely changethe way people work.
By Tristan Gunderson
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