Virtualization Basics Explained


How can you master virtualization skills if you don’t know how to explain it to your grandmother?

One can justifiably say that virtualization is a mature technology. It has formed the basis for Cloud computing, and it epitomizes the continuous service delivery and consumption model that beckons in the era of IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS). For the most part, the benefits of virtualization, such as high availability, virtual machine (VM) mobility, and consolidation, have been thoroughly documented and are valued by businesses of all kinds.

Unfortunately for some IT administrators, virtualization might not be a primary responsibility. Without the opportunity to learn and gain experience as part of their daily routine means these admins are getting a late start in the virtualization game. So why should IT admins, who don’t consider virtualization to be a critical part of their job description, care about virtualization? Because virtualization spans every data center construct from servers to storage to networking to security operations. Add in the fact that it is used in practically every IT shop and you have a perfect IT storm. So while you might have been hired to administer one of those systems, virtualization’s dependency and abstraction of those resources means you’ll need to bridge the virtualization knowledge gap.

The confluence of a mature technology, lack of experience, and a late start means that much of the current documentation and learning materials are not tailored for you, the “voluntold” virt admin; instead, they’re written with the assumption that you already have some level of virtualization experience.

Just as setting any object in motion requires overcoming the greatest force of friction, the toughest step in any journey is getting started. Your current approach to learning virtualization might be akin to throwing darts at a dart board (aka chuck and duck) in the hopes that something might just stick and resolve any issue that arises. But as you’ve probably observed and verified, that’s rarely the most efficient or effective way to do things.

This is virtualization in a nutshell:

Let’s start by untangling virtualization and discuss why it’s become a necessary aspect of practically any IT department. I was once asked, “How would you explain what virtualization is to your grandmother?”


Think of virtualization in terms of living in an apartment. Let’s say you sign the lease on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. That’s a lot of unused resources for just one person, so you add a roommate. Now the utilization of the apartment has doubled and the monthly cost to you has been cut in half. To save even more money, you add two more roommates. Now you are paying a quarter of the total rent, but the trade-off is that sometimes there is contention for shared resources, like the kitchen, the living room, the bedrooms, or the bathrooms.

The electricity sometimes goes out, so you come up with an agreement with other friends in a similarly configured apartment in a different apartment building, which allows you and your roommates to move between the two apartments should one apartment become unusable or overcommitted. Also, if you find out that you get along better with certain roommates, you can change roommates to maintain the most agreeable roommate arrangements.

So, Grandma, that is virtualization in a nutshell: Consolidation and availability of resources to enable cost savings and efficient data center utilization.

Understanding the basic virtualization construct is key, but your skills are what will get you paid.

So what skills do you need in order to successfully walk the walk of a virtualization administrator?

The following four skills make up a straightforward framework that will get any virtualization admin up to speed in no time:

  1. Discovery
  2. Alerting
  3. Remediation
  4. Troubleshooting

I spent some extensive time documenting the what, why, how of each one of these skills in my latest eBook: The 4 Skills to Master Your Universe. You can download a free copy here:

Download a free copy of 4 Skills to Master Your Virtualization Universe eBook here.