How Do You Explain Virtualization to Your Mom?

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At VMWare’s annual conference, VMworld, virtualization experts were asked “How do you explain virtualization to your mom?” Here’s what some of them had to say.1

Businessman confused

“Something that you can’t really see but it exists…?”

“It’s like Santa Claus.”

“It’s a computer that’s in the other computer’s imagination.”

“It’s like a dream within a dream, but that other dream goes a little slower than the dream before it…”

“It’s like a microwave: it’s magic.”

“Like driving an invisible car… and you can copy it as many times as you want to.”

“It turns the one oven at Thanksgiving into five.”

Experts or not, I don’t think anyone’s mom would be closer to understanding virtualization with these explanations!

The fact is, virtualization is complicated and therefore often remains a nebulous, unutilized tool. In the 15+ years that virtualization has been widely used, about 70% of SMBs have still not adopted the technology.

A technical definition of virtualization would tell you it is the means of creating a virtual version of a device or resource, (i.e., a server, storage device, network, or OS) with a framework that divides resources. But… what does that mean?

Because virtualization is confusing, business efficiency suffers through antiquated technology. Don’t let the confusion hold your resources hostage. It’s time to unpack virtualization so you can fully utilize it as a powerful tool.

The Pre-Virtualization World

In a world before virtualization, servers would traditionally run one application on one server with one operating system. In the old system, the number of servers would continue to mount since every new app required its own server and operating system.


As a result, expensive hardware resources were being purchased, but not used. Each server would only use about 12% of its resources. Almost 88% of server resources were completely unutilized.

The Virtualized World

WebAlthough virtualization technology has existed in various forms since the late 1960s, mainstream adoption didn’t occur until the early 2000s.

Virtualization is possible because of a software layer called a hypervisor. The first step of the virtualization process is installing the hypervisor onto a server.

After the hypervisor is up and running, multiple “software containers” known as virtual machines (VMs) are built on top of the hypervisor. All of the VMs are isolated from each other.

Once the VMs have been built on top of the hypervisor, applications and operating systems can be added to each VM. Every app and operating system placed on the server lives in a separate VM, which means if an app or operating system goes down on one VM, none of the other apps or operating systems on the other VMs are affected.

So how do the VMs interact with the hardware resources? This is where the hypervisor comes in: the hypervisor is able to distribute the underlying resources based on what each VM needs. Resources (like memory, storage, processors, and networking) are pooled together so that every VM can get exactly what it needs for its ideal performance.

If one VM needs more memory than other apps, the hypervisor can allocate more memory for that VM. If another needs more storage, the hypervisor can allocate more storage. And so on.

Virtualization lets you run more applications on fewer physical servers. Rather than one application running on one server with one operating system, multiple VMs run multiple apps and operating systems on one physical server.

Explore more of the benefits of a virtualized environment here.

The Bus Metaphor

Just in case this is still muddled or confusing, here’s how I would explain virtualization to my mom…

Virtualization is like a school bus. Before the school bus was invented, every parent used their own car to drive their kid to school, using extra gas and resources—putting all of the kids into one vehicle wasn’t an option.


One day, the school bus was introduced, exposing the inefficiency of every parent driving their kid to school separately. By using the school bus, parents could use less gas and fewer vehicles, all while transporting more kids.

I know this is an overly simplified breakdown of a complex topic (which may cause you to breakout singing “The Wheels on the Bus”), but I think my mom would appreciate it…

Will you use virtualization?

My goal isn’t just to help you answer your mother’s question “what is virtualization?” by saying “It is the logical division of system resources provided between clients and devices.. of course!” My goal is to make sure that your business and IT are running as efficiently as possible.

Virtualization can help!

Infographic of application development for mobile devices - programming, creating and optimization application

Explore your options with CCB. We can help you optimize your resources through virtualization.

Have questions about virtualization? Want to tell us how you explain virtualization to your mom? Let us know below!

1{VMworld quotes courtesy of Spark Media Solutions.}

Spencer Towle
Spencer kicked off the CCB Blog in 2015, pulling from his experience in the IT industry and his passion for writing engaging and valuable content.

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