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What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine, known as a guest, is created within a computing environment, called a host. Multiple virtual machines can exist in one host at one time. Key files that make up a virtual machine include a log file, NVRAM setting file, virtual disk file, and configuration file.

Virtual Machine Definition

Virtual machines are software computers that provide the same functionality as physical computers. Like physical computers, they run applications and an operating system. However, virtual machines are computer files that run on a physical computer and behave like a physical computer. In other words, virtual machines behave as separate computer systems.

Why Virtual Machines?

Virtual machines are created to perform specific tasks that are risky to perform in a host environment, such as accessing virus-infected data and testing operating systems. Since the virtual machine is sandboxed from the rest of the system, the software inside the virtual machine cannot tamper with the host computer. Virtual machines can also be used for other purposes such as server virtualization.

Advantages of Virtual Machines:

  • Provides disaster recovery and application provisioning options
  • Virtual machines are simply managed, maintained, and are widely available
  • Multiple operating system environments can be run on a single physical computer

Disadvantages of Virtual Machines:

  • Running multiple virtual machines on one physical machine can cause unstable performance
  • Virtual machines are less efficient and run slower than a physical computer

The Two Types of Virtual Machines:

  1. Process virtual machines: Execute computer programs in a platform-independent environment. It masks the information of the underlying hardware or operating system. This allows the program to be executed in the same fashion on any platform.
  2. System virtual machines: Support the sharing of a host computer’s physical resources between multiple virtual machines.  

Learn how to create a virtual machine with VMware.

Related Topics
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Virtual Desktops
Business Mobility Server Virtualization
Network Virtualization
Virtual Networking

VMware Virtual Machine Products, Solutions, and Resources