Virtualization is a process used to convert physical hardware (whether from a desktop, laptop, or server) and emulate it using software. The result allows administrators or users to run multiple operating systems and allocate shared resources on one computer, laptop or server simultaneously. Virtualization software loads files that define a new virtual computer, called a virtual machine. The files can be copied or moved to any computer or server and run with the same virtualization software installed.
There are two methods of running virtualized software. There is hosted virtualization, where the virtualization software is installed on top of and sits on an operating system. This type of virtualization allows the administrator or user to continue using the base operating system and gui. Some examples include Microsoft Hypervisor, VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, and Parallels Desktop for the Mac.
Bare metal virtualization runs virtualization software installed directly on hardware. It provides speed and performance with decreased overhead from the OS hosting virtualization software. This type of virtualization software is often used for enterprise customers. Examples include VMware ESX or Citrix XenServer.
Some virtualization tips to keep in mind before converting your physical box into virtual machines.
Plan out a strategy prior to moving your physical servers to virtual machines. Layout your infrastructure, network IPs, software, etc. Put together a detailed plan that outlines the full scope of your migration and phases the the migration. Virtualize only what you have to and work towards a goal.
Prepare Allocation of Resources
Each virtual machine will have different requirements. Consider storage space, ram, CPU, network adapters, etc. You will need to specify these details when creating and preparing a virtual machine.
Some machines may require USB interface or other devices to be attached. For these types of setups, you will need virtualization software specific to supporting those devices. Typically virtualization software manufacturers provide compatibility cross-check software to ensure your migration process runs smoothly and prepares you for having all the drivers necessary to support your hardware.
Virtual Machine Conversion Tools
Make sure you have the proper migration tools necessary to convert your physical servers/machines to virtual machines. This will help the migration process to run smoothly and should point out if there are any compatibility issues, prerequisites, or other steps necessary to complete the migration process successfully.
Plan out a good backup solution, whether it be backing up your database from within the virtual machine, to doing a hot backup of your virtual machine. Licensing costs may play a part in these decisions.