One of the most efficient computing methods that has gained speedy traction is virtualization. Undoubtedly, the world of technology is making giant strides, making it even more challenging to discover and utilize through safe computing methods.
The simplest way of conceptualizing virtualization is to focus on building something virtual rather than the actual version. This perfectly appeals to non-techies, but for someone looking at understanding the process of virtual computing, this post is all you need. Here, we’ll also clear your doubt in virtualization’s safety and the benefits.
How Does Virtualization Work?
Virtualization employs software that taps into the resources that computing hardware provides, creating a virtual system. IT organizations often setup multiple virtual systems and applications on a single server.
A key utility of virtual computing is server virtualization. How does server virtualization work? It’s pretty simple ; Implement a software layer called a hypervisor to mimic the hardware it’s running on. This practice also borrows the services of the CPU’s memory, network traffic, and input/output (I/0) configurations from the computers motherboard.
How do hypervisors help virtualization? Well, the typical task of a hypervisor is quite straightforward. It simply takes the physical resources and separates them so the virtual environment can use them. They can be located on top of an OS or affixed to the hardware.
With the help of the hypervisor, the guest OS (also known as the virtual machine), now running alongside the true hardware, copying the hardware’s software. This may leave you wondering if the efficiency of the virtual system matches that of the OS-backed hardware.
In clear terms, the performance of the virtual system doesn’t match up to that of the OS utilizing true hardware. You can however, set the number of cores, threads, and RAM that the virtual machine “borrows” from the host operating system.
The good news is, this isn’t a problem. Most virtual machines don’t need the full potential of the underlying hardware. On the contrary, this even allows for more flexibility, control, and lesser dependency on a hardware platform.
The steps that virtualization processes follow are:
- Hypervisors (the software that runs virtual machines) use the hardware from their physical environment, meaning the host operating system.
- Resources are extracted and shared between various virtual environments based on needs.
- Once the virtual environment boots into action, an operator can send instructions from the physical environment. Such instructions, however, do require extra resources. The hypervisor carries the message from the physical system to the virtual machines and stores the changes in a .vmdk file.
What are the Advantages of Virtual Computing?
The advantages of virtual computing are highlighted below:
- Disaster recovery is easier: Disaster recovery doesn’t have to be a challenging task when running in a virtual environment. Regular snapshots provide updated data which allows virtual data to be backed up and restored easily. Even in emergency cases, a virtual machine can be moved to a new and safe location in minutes.
- Quicker backups: In virtual computing, backups can be taken off both the virtual server and the virtual machine. There is a fascinating method of backing up virtual computing. This is taking automatic snapshots throughout the day to ensure that all data is up-to-date.
- Security: The internet has become famous for having lots of malicious applications. Some of these applications can pose serious threats to the system. Virtual machines provide an option known as a guest operating system. This allows the application to run in guest mode. Consequently, a lot of damages are only temporary as you can revert your VM to a previous snapshot, essentially “rewinding” your virtual machine back in time to before the damage occurred.
- Malware identification: Another exciting feature of virtual machines is a different sandbox environment for testing applications. What other way is best for identifying malware in virtual computing? Also, since the VM does not interact directly with the host computer, most malware doesn’t cause serious damages. Although sophisticated, there are still plenty of exploits for hypervisors like VMware, Virtual Box, and Hyper-V.
- ISA structure: Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) serves to identify hardware and software. However, you should know that the ISA provided by a VM is different from that of a physical computer. This enables the distinction of tasks executed by hardware.
Are Virtual Machines Secure from Malware?
Many users have expressed concerns about the possibility of a worm copying itself to a host machine. This is especially true if the virtual machine shares the same network with the host machine and enabled shared folders. A situation like this may prompt you to raise an eyebrow over the security of virtual machines.
Virtual machines are usually networked. In fact, they are essentially designed to work like that in many cases. This means that malware with a network component (i.e., worms) will propagate wherever their addressing permits them. However, some viruses tend to only be active on user mode.
This means they can’t communicate overtly but can still set up a covert channel. One common vulnerability of virtual machines is the “VMtools” portion. Operators install this software to make the guest OS run more smoothly. Wondering what the best infection pathway is for virtual machines? VMtools are! Some malware has shown the ability to detect that they are being executed inside a VM. They then change their behavior.
Some operators have reported this is a rare scenario, though. Still, this possibility leaves one a little exasperated and challenges you to adopt safer security practices for your VMs.
The frustrating part is that ransomware protections don’t protect shared folders from remote attacks. The malware also can evade anti-malware technologies by hiding inside the VM. One feasible approach to counter may be by micro-segmentation. This is simply making sure that a virtual box access any other file.
Virtualization is one of the popular ways of going beyond the physical form of resource to abstract it. The type of technologies that can be virtualized range from servers and storage devices to networks and applications. In the modern-day, many computing technologies rely on virtualization to set up their environment.
Understating how virtualization works and setting it up is the first headway to utilizing the technology. It would be best to also familiarize yourself with terms such as hypervisors and virtual machines. Both terms are paramount to understanding how virtual computing works and have been used unambiguously throughout this post.
Concerns of malware in a VM crossing into another file/folder or environment have also been addressed here. This is without leaving out the benefits of virtual computing, including the security features involved.