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Pitfalls of Virtualization in Cloud Computing

When businesses adopt cloud computing services, they also often implement virtualization in the process. Virtualization allows IT administrators to partition physical servers into multiple virtual machines (VMs) and assign each one a different OS environment for dedicated tasks. This article explains the pitfalls of implementing virtualization in cloud computing and whether you should avoid it altogether or go with another option instead. Let’s get started!

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is a technique for running multiple operating systems on a single physical server. It’s a type of software-based partitioning that creates isolated “virtual” environments with their own resources. The main goal of virtualization is to maximize the use of existing hardware resources.

Physical servers with a virtualization software installed are called virtualized servers or virtual machines (VMs). Each VM is allocated dedicated resources such as CPU, memory, and storage. This allows users to host several operating systems on one physical server and partition the server’s resources among them.

Why Cloud Computing and Virtualization Go Hand in Hand

In cloud computing, data is processed outside the company’s own network. This can be risky, but virtualization helps mitigate risks by providing a “sandbox” environment for cloud computing. It also makes it easier to transition to the cloud because the data doesn’t have to travel across the internet.

The best use case for virtualization in cloud computing is to run legacy applications that require specific OS environments. Cloud providers may offer virtualization services, but they might not offer the exact OS versions you’re looking for. This is when you’d setup virtualization within your organization’s private cloud.

Another reason to run legacy apps in the cloud is to transition them to the cloud without touching them or changing their code. This also applies when migrating to public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Pitfalls of Virtualization in the Cloud

The biggest pitfall of virtualization in the cloud is the lack of isolation. There is a misconception that cloud providers guarantee full isolation between VMs that run different operating systems. In reality, they only offer VM isolation at the process level. This means that if one VM crashes or experiences a glitch, other VMs running on the same host might also be affected.

It also makes it harder to troubleshoot the issue because you have to examine the impact on several VMs at the same time. This comes down to hardware virtualization, which is the technique cloud providers use to host multiple OSes on one server. On a smaller scale, hardware-assisted virtualization (Intel VT-x or AMD-V) is used to create VMs that run on a single host.

Tips for a Successful Deployment of Virtualization in the Cloud

To avoid the pitfalls of virtualization in cloud computing, make sure you check the fine print in your cloud provider’s SLAs. You’ll most likely encounter the following issues:

  • Limited isolation between VMs: Full OS isolation is not a common feature in cloud providers’ VMs. However, some might offer the ability to run different OSes on the same hypervisor with certain restrictions.
  • VM sprawl and resource contention: Managing a large number of VMs is challenging. Make sure to keep track of them and regularly clean up VMs that are no longer in use.
  • Few available OS versions in the cloud: You might have to run an older application in the cloud that requires a certain OS environment. You can use virtualization to install that OS in the VMs and then transfer the application to the cloud.

Final Words on the Pitfalls of Virtualization in Cloud Computing

Virtualization is a powerful tool that’s widely adopted, but it comes with certain limitations. When choosing a cloud provider, make sure they support hardware-assisted virtualization to achieve full OS isolation.

If you need to run specific OSes on a single host, take advantage of OS-level virtualization features instead. Use OS-level virtualization to run different OSes in the same host, so you can take advantage of hardware virtualization.