Virtual machines have existed since the 1960s but have seen widespread only since the late 1990s. A virtual machine is a replica of the original physical machine, and multiple virtual machines can exist on a single physical computer. The software emulates all portions of the machine, including hardware and input/output (I/O) drivers. Using virtual migration, an entire computer system can be migrated to new hardware without any software changes being required. This greatly simplifies operating system (OS) upgrades and disaster recovery as well as lowering the technology-operating costs for a business.
Migrating data and software from an old operating system to a new one can lead to a number of unforeseen complications. Drivers for I/O devices might be incompatible, older programs might not run on the new OS, or there might be application conflicts. Virtually migrating the system can allow support staff members to fully test and debug a new OS before it goes live.
Running financial programs, databases or customer service applications on the same computer can be risky. When a program crashes on a computer, every other application running can be negatively affected. If a single physical machine is used to host multiple applications, a program crash can be a disaster. By virtually migrating each critical program to its own virtual machine, crash recovery is a matter of restarting a single virtual system, leaving the other applications untouched and running.
Software developers can test an application on multiple operating systems on the same physical computer. Virtual computers running Windows®, Linux and Macintosh® operating systems can be set up on a single physical computer. Using virtual migration, the software can be tested on each platform. Debugging is simplified because each virtual OS can be restarted or tweaked without affecting any of the other platforms.
Virtual migration can be used to set up old legacy software on new systems. Businesses might want to retain an old but stable system, but might want to run it on new hardware. Virtual migration can allow the entire software system to be moved to a partition on the new hardware because virtual systems are hardware-independent. A new OS can be used to host the legacy system on a virtual machine.
Operating costs are reduced by using virtual migration. Businesses can purchase fewer high-performance servers while virtually hosting more than one fully independent application on each. This allows database maintenance or application updates to be conducted without disturbing other mission-critical applications. With a smaller number of physical systems, fewer hardware support staff members are required.
Disaster recovery can be simplified with virtual migration and can be as simple as starting up a software program. It doesn't matter whether the hardware is different on the recovery system. All hardware configurations, firmware, OS and applications are virtualized, so a fully mirrored system can be set up on any physical computer.