What is a hypervisor? (2023)

Invented by IBM for its mainframe computers in the 1960s, a hypervisor is a software layer that allows multiple operating systems to work side by side while sharing the same physical computing resources. These operating systems (OS) function asvirtual machines (VMs), which map entire computer hardware environments into software layers. Hypervisors are inseparable from everythingvirtualization types, since they regulate and monitor the entire virtualization process.

If you're new to hypervisor technology, this guide will help you break it down. Below we explain the advantages of hypervisors, how they work, types of hypervisors and provide you with examples.

How do hypervisors work?

Originally called a Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM), a hypervisor allows a host computer to support multiple guest VMs by virtually sharing its resources. This can include processing power, memory and storage space.

During operation, the hypervisor logically separates each VM from each other and allocates their own dedicated portion of computing resources. This ensures that the VMs run smoothly and do not interfere with each other. For example, if one VM crashes or a security breach occurs, the others are unaffected.


Hypervisors can be classified into two main types, including Type 1 (referred to asBare Metal Virtualization) and Type 2 (referred to as hosted or embedded hypervisors).

Type 1 hypervisors

A Type 1 hypervisor runs directly on the host computer's physical hardware.

These hypervisors are typically faster and more efficient than Type 2 hypervisors because they:

  • Interact directly with the host computer's CPU, RAM, and physical storage space.
  • Eliminate the need to go through the operating system layer.
  • Allocate all available hardware processing power and resources to VMs.
  • Provide higher security because there is nothing between the hypervisor and the host CPU for an attacker to exploit.

For these reasons, most enterprise-level organizations choose Type 1 virtualization for their large-scale data center needs.

Required hardware for Type 1 hypervisors

Type 1 hypervisors often require separate management engines or hardware acceleration software to manage multiple VMs and the host computer's hardware. These hypervisors cannot operate successfully without this technology because managing VMs and host resources concurrently is extremely intensive.

Type 1 hypervisor examples

Common examples of Type 1 hypervisors are:

  • Citrix Hypervisor (XenServer).
  • VMware vSphere/ESXi.
  • Microsoft Hyper-V.
  • Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV).
  • Kernel-based virtual machine (KVM).

Type 2 hypervisors

While a Type 1 hypervisor runs directly on the host computer's physical hardware, a Type 2 hypervisor runs as a software layer on top of the host computer's operating system.

Robust Type 2 hypervisors typically offer:

  • A simple setup process as no separate management machines are required.
  • Streamlined access to a guest operating system alongside the primary operating system running the host computer, making them ideal for end-user productivity.
  • Additional toolkits that users can install in the guest operating system, providing improved connections between the guest and host operating systems.

However, Type 2 hypervisors are not as secure or efficient as Type 1 because of their deployment. Because communication between a Type 2 hypervisor and the host's hardware must traverse the operating system layer, issues such as latency or a delay in processing requests can occur appear.

Because of this, Type 2 virtualization is typically used by single users who need access to multiple operating systems but don't care about higher latency, such as B. Engineers who develop or test software.

Type 2 hypervisors also pose greater security risks to the host as they offer a larger attack surface. For example, if an attacker gains access to the host operating system, they can compromise any guest operating system running inside the Type 2 hypervisor.

Required hardware for Type 2 hypervisors

Type 2 hypervisors can use separate management engines or hardware acceleration software when these features are available and applicable. Typically, Type 2 hypervisors resort to software emulation when the physical host computer cannot provide the necessary support.

Type 2 hypervisor examples

Common examples of Type 2 hypervisors are:

  • Microsoft Virtual PC.
  • Virtual Oracle-Box.
  • VMware Workstation.
  • Oracle Solaris Sons.
  • VMware-Fusion.
  • Oracle VM Server for x86.
  • CentOS virtualization.
What is a hypervisor? (1)

The benefits of hypervisors

Both Type 1 and Type 2 hypervisors offer many benefits, including:

  • efficiency: VMs can be created instantly using hypervisors, giving organizations greater accuracy and efficiency in allocating resources for complex workloads.
  • adaptabilityNote: Type 1 hypervisors allow guest operating systems and their applications to run on multiple different types of hardware rather than relying on OS-specific devices or drivers. This is because a hypervisor separates each guest operating system from the host computer's hardware.
  • agility: The agility of hypervisors comes primarily from their ability to run multiple VMs using the resources of a host machine - but they also offer flexible use of physical servers. For example, a hypervisor provides a cheaper way to run multiple VMs rather than using multiple servers for the same task.
  • agility: VMs in hypervisor software are isolated from the physical host machine, meaning they can be moved across multiple servers if needed. This means IT teams can easily and seamlessly maneuver changing workloads to different localized or remote virtual servers that have the necessary networking, memory, storage or processing capabilities.

The disadvantages of hypervisors

Despite being an amazing technology, there are some concerns with hypervisor environments compared to traditional dedicated servers.

  • resource overheadNote: Because hypervisors are the managers of their virtual servers, some of the physical server's resources are used by the hypervisor, so the virtual servers cannot use 100 percent of the physical servers' resources.
  • Learning curve:Managing servers in a virtual environment differs from a traditional environment because you need to learn how to use the hypervisor itself to manage the virtual servers. This may mean additional training for some technicians.
  • Additional security concerns: Every piece of hardware and software on your server represents a potential attack vector for hackers. Adding virtualization can therefore add a security risk by providing additional attack surface(s).

Hypervisoren vs. Container

platformFull operating systemsIndependent applications
StructureHosted ServersHosted Applications
Best useinfrastructure or testingapplication development

When it comes to hypervisorsVirtualization vs. Containerization, there are a few key differences. Hypervisors are used to create and run multiple VMs independent of the host computer's physical hardware. VMs run complete, independent operating systems and function like any physical computer. Another virtualization approach uses containers. Containers allow applications to run independently of an operating system. Containers run independent applications and borrow resources from the host operating system.

While VMs are typically used to deploy infrastructure or full server test environments, containerization is often used to streamline application development and movement.

Hypervisors: A Summary

Hypervisors are essential tools for both businesses and individual PC users, and awareness around them continues to grow as workloads move to the cloud. They can be used to optimize several resource-intensive tasks, e.g. B. replicating data, virtualizing desktops, consolidating servers or supportprivate cloudhospitality While not right in every situation, virtualized servers can solve a variety of problems associated with dedicated physical servers.

Learn more about theTypes of server virtualizationand the differences between aBare-Metal-Server vs. virtuelles Server-Hosting.

For example, if a company uses multiple servers, each providing different services or operating systems, it can be difficult for IT teams to manage them all from a central source or platform. However, with a hypervisor, any service or operating system can be virtualized, consolidated, and managed from a physical host computer, streamlining IT workflows and optimizing physical server resources.

Take your hypervisor virtualization solution one step further

Often the first step in integrating virtualization into your IT infrastructure is to add a hypervisor to a dedicated (bare metal) server. Liquid Web offers a variety oftraditional dedicated serverswhich are perfect for such an implementation.

When you're ready to scale your digital capabilities and gain even more flexibility from your hypervisor virtualization solution,Liquid Web Cloud dedicated serversdid you cover

Our Cloud Dedicated Servers integrate the processing power and resources of a traditional dedicated server with the instant deployment and flexibility of a cloud platform, allowing you to easily create and run multiple task-intensive virtual machines through our hypervisor solution.

If your business is ready for full enterprise-level virtualization, ourPrivates Cloud-Hostingsolution can meet your needs. You have full control of a virtual data center that allows you to create virtual machines and infrastructure in any combination you want. From highly available databases to load-balancing web nodes, our private cloud solution can meet the most demanding infrastructure needs.

Contact usStart harnessing the power of virtualization for all your server hosting needs today.


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