Before we get too deep in this discussion, perhaps we should make sure we’ve covered the basics for those who may not be familiar with the concept of virtualization. In theory, virtualization is an abstraction of any computing resource and has been around for forty-plus years. The most common use of the term now, however, refers to the practice of running one or more independent “virtual” machines (VMs) on a single physical machine. Generally speaking, there is a host operating system that runs the virtualization software that in turn runs any number of guest VMs. Each VM emulates a set of hardware (memory, disk, processor, network adapter, etc…) and allows the installation of an operating system. The VM then functions almost identically to a physical machine.
The most popular virtualization products are made by VMware, but there are others such as Microsoft’s Virtual Server and the open source product, Xen. In my experience, VMware is by far the leader in most IT shops as well as in the few control system applications I’ve seen or heard about.
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, cost savings is the major driver for IT shops to implement VM products. For control systems, though, the driver will likely be different. I believe if it is approached correctly, this technology has great potential for the industry.
Stay tuned as we continue the discussion and dive further into the issues.