Understanding Virtualization: VMware Basics

For many users, VMware downloads are the first point of contact with the world of virtualization. There’s more to it than just the underlying software, and in this article we’ll be looking at some of the basic principles governing storage virtualization, and covering some basic principles for VMware users. We’ll also look at a virtualized storage solution that empowers businesses to get the most from their VMware installations.

What Is Virtualization?

According to VMware, virtualization is “the process of creating a software-based (or virtual) representation of something rather than a physical one.” The principle may apply to application programs, file servers, information storage, or computer networks. 

A virtual machine or VM is the name given to a software-generated working model or emulation of a computer system or computing environment. VMs may be used to simulate the behavior of individual applications, processes, or even complete operating systems.


A hypervisor is a piece of software that creates virtual machines, and enables them to operate directly on underlying hardware. Hypervisors are also known as virtual machine monitors. Using a hypervisor, a single host computer can support multiple guest VMs through the virtual sharing of its resources, such as memory or processing power.

There are two principal types of hypervisor technology, referred to logically enough as Type-1 and Type-2.

Type-1 hypervisors provide direct interaction with the underlying hardware, without the assistance of any operating system. They can therefore run directly on the host computer’s hardware, to control and manage guest operating systems. A Type-1 hypervisor used in a production environment is one of the commonest forms of VMware virtualization.

Type-2 hypervisors are typically installed along with an operating system (OS), and need the OS in order to interact with the underlying hardware. Installations like VMware workstation and VMware player come under this category.

The VMware ESXi Hypervisor 

VMware ESXi Hypervisor is a Type-1 Hypervisor developed by VMware for deploying and serving virtual computers. It has all the necessary components for emulating complete operating environments, including its own kernel. In essence, ESXi is an operating system developed by VMware for interacting with hardware and performing various functions. 

ESXi has a small installation footprint (around 144 MB), and can even be installed on a USB drive. Yet VMWare ESXi allows you to create multiple virtual machines on top of it, to run multiple operating systems such as Windows, Linux, Solaris, or macOS, from a single piece of physical hardware. 

Among the options for VMware downloads is a free version of ESXi which is limited to two physical CPUs and eight virtual CPUs (vCPU) per virtual machine. Users of Free VMware ESXi  aren’t able to manage the hypervisor using vCenter Server (which we’ll be taking a closer look at, in a later article). This free virtual server software does however support an unlimited number of cores per CPU, and an unlimited amount of physical memory.

VMware vSphere 

Formerly known as VMware Infrastructure, VMware vSphere is a suite of software applications designed for managing VMware virtual environments. This includes virtualization, management, and interface layers. Its two core components are ESXi server and vCenter Server. ESXi server is the hypervisor we’ve just described, where you can create and run virtual machines and virtual appliances. And vCenter Server is a service through which you can manage multiple ESXi hosts connected in a network, and pool your host resources.

The vCenter Server is typically used for larger scale installations and production environments. For smaller deployments, vSphere Client may be installed on a desktop or laptop system, to enable users to connect to the vCenter Server and manage their virtual infrastructure. The vSphere Web client performs a similar function, but provides access via your web browser. 

You can manage an ESXi host directly using vSphere Client, but the vSphere Web Client can only be used to remotely manage vCenter Server.  

StarWind Virtual SAN For VMware

StarWind Virtual SAN is a virtual Storage Area Network (vSAN) solution that delivers performance and reliability using commercial off-the-shelf hardware, removing the need for costly proprietary components in creating shared pools of virtualized storage. 

StarWind products offer flexible hypervisor and OS-specific software-defined storage (SDS) choices to enable users to simplify their multi-tenant configurations, or facilitate hypervisor switching. Solutions are available for Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Red Hat KVM, and Citrix XenServer.

StarWind Virtual SAN for vSphere is a ready-to-go Linux VM that installs on the cluster nodes. Once installed, Virtual SAN creates a fault-tolerant storage pool available to the entire vSphere cluster. VSAN for vSphere users get unrestricted features and storage capacity, with outstanding cost-efficiency.

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