Differentiating Between Virtualization and Cloud Computing

Differentiating Between Virtualization and Cloud Computing

There is often much confusion surrounding the terms ‘cloud computing’ and ‘virtualization’. Even though virtualization and cloud computing share a common bond of maximizing computing resources, there is a clear difference between the two concepts.

Let’s begin with an introduction to virtualization and cloud computing in order to understand what they are.

The term virtualization refers to a process used to create a virtual environment.

  • Virtualization allows a user to run multiple operating systems on one computer simultaneously. It is like getting multiple servers for each physical server you buy.
  • It is creation of virtual (rather than actual) version of something such as an operating system, a desktop, a server or network resources, etc.
  • The technology behind virtualization is known as virtual machine monitor (VMM) or virtual manager. Virtualization is also known as the backbone of cloud computing.

The term cloud computing has become a buzzword in the tech industry, which refers to automated control, built on top of a virtualized infrastructure consisting of storage, compute and network components.

  • Cloud computing gives your company access to complex applications and computing resources via the Internet.
  • Virtualization manipulates hardware and cloud computing manipulates the result.
  • It is the delivery of shared computing resources, software or data as a service (SaaS) on-demand through the Internet.

How Is Cloud Computing Different From Virtualization?

Many customers ask, “What exactly is the difference between virtualization and cloud computing?” In order to respond to that question, we can say that virtualization is one of the elements that makes up cloud computing.

The virtualization and cloud computing are nebulous concepts for many organizations and these two terms are often substituted for one another. Together, they are creating a new era where companies are granted the freedom to run their applications without having to conduct non-strategic IT functions such as patches, updates and backups. As we know, the virtualization acts as the base for cloud computing and helps deliver on the value of cloud computing. With virtualization, we can create virtual machines, scale virtual machines up/down via manual processes without service disruption.

Cloud computing is accessed through the internet and can make use of virtualization. Certain operating systems, hardware systems, and even application clusters, deliver cloud services. Cloud computing is nothing but delivery of computing resources, data and storage resources as a service to end users over a network.

The main difference is that in virtualization you are controlling the internal management of hardware and in cloud computing, services are already taken care by the provider of your wide area network.

There are number of components used to build the cloud infrastructure. The cloud computing enables virtualization of machines independent of physical location. At the lowest layer, there are hardware components such as servers, storage and network components. It can be described as a service where virtualization is part of a physical infrastructure. All the concepts or operations applicable on the single machine are applicable to virtual machines deployed on the cloud.

In cloud computing, self service is a crucial concept to deliver availability to any user at any time. All the resources are more generally considered ephemeral–spin it up, use it, delete it when you are done. Virtualization still treats instances, volume and network as independent elements to be virtualized. Cloud computing treats them all as unified resources.

Virtualization is a simple process in which software is used to simulate hardware. It can exist without the cloud. But cloud computing cannot exist without virtualization. Cloud computing allows businesses to store and access applications and data on virtual servers, rather than in a physical machine. Cloud computing evolved from the concept of utility computing and it can be thought of as many computers pretending to be one computing environment. Many organizations have deployed virtualization by creating virtual servers on top of networking, storage and security stacks. But with private cloud computing, you need to think about to design these technologies in conjunction with one another.

Advantages of Virtualization

Let’s begin with the core benefits of virtualization as applied to the realm of cloud computing.

Figure 1: Advantages of virtualization

  • Virtualization on Small Scale: You can purchase and maintain fewer servers with virtualization that makes better use of server’s available capacity than non virtualized servers. Each virtual machine runs its own operating system and business applications your company needs.
  • Increases Power Usage Effectiveness: Without virtualization, more hardware is required to do the same amount of work. As there is increase in power usage, it leads to physical infrastructure efficiency.
  • Less Redundancy: Virtualization contains high level of data centers, so ultimately a virtualized environment will have high fault tolerance.
  • High Amount of Work: Virtualization has more benefits in traditional technologies such as large relational databases, virtual local area networks and storage area networks.
  • Higher Availability: Virtualization decreases downtime during maintenance periods which means changes can be made to one server without effecting others and maintenance can be done without effecting business and causing disruptions.
  • Privacy: Security requirements for organizations can be provided by virtual machines by replicating the required level of resource or device privacy that comes with hard wired devices.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing provides numerous benefits both to end users and businesses of all sizes. It set up as a virtual office that provides the flexibility of connecting your business anywhere, any time. The following are the benefits to moving your business to the cloud:

Figure 2: Advantages of cloud computing

  • Cost Efficiency: The cloud is available at lower initial cost than traditional technology. It can lower your company’s IT expenses. By using cloud computing technology, you can save on licensing fees and eliminates charges such as storage cost, software updates, etc.
  • Scalability: You can change your operation or storage needs allowing flexibility that suits your situation and scalability is a built-in feature of cloud deployments. The cloud instances are deployed automatically only when needed.
  • Backup and Recovery: It is much easier to perform backup and recovery of the data on a physical device. It provides flexible and reliable backup or recovery solutions.
  • Unlimited Storage: You can store the data on the cloud as it provides unlimited storage capacity. There is no need to worry about increasing your current storage space availability.
  • Easy Deployment: Cloud computing allows to you to deploy quickly which is the most important advantage of this technology. The entire system can be fully functional within few minutes.


Cloud computing and virtualization are important concepts in today’s business environment. We have seen how virtualized environments are used in cloud based applications. Each have their own benefits and they are not competing approaches. Virtualization and cloud computing are both ways to do more with less by maximizing computing and infrastructure resources.

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