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Learn About Machines With Multiple Personality Disorders

There are a lot of tools and techniques we use to make sure your websites which we host run smoothly – giving you all the features but saving you the hassle of unnecessary downtime and broken updates.

In this blog I’ll explain a little more about hypervisors and virtual machines, both integral tools within the development team, which help us to ensure the sleek running of all of our services.

26th computervirtual machine (VM) is simply that. It is a computer which does not have any physical components, but rather runs off imaginary components simulated by a parent machine.

hypervisor is a computer that creates and runs virtual machines (VM). One bit of hardware, but many minds each doing their own thing simultaneously, independent from the rest.

To the development team, our VMs are a vital part of day to day life. In fact most of our vital office servers are VMs, for the simple reason, VM’s are very flexible.

We have VM duplicate versions of all of our live servers, (admittedly slightly less powerful versions), for simulation testing purposes, VMs to control our backups, even VMs to control and manage VMs!

Did you know that a VM can run on any hypervisor? All you need to do is move the image, (all the data from the VM operating system), from one hypervisor to another, and off you go.

This ensures that in the case of a physical failure of one of our hypervisors we can move our vital machines from it and get up and running with minimal downtime. This is particularly important when we are talking about a device used to make safe backups of your websites and data!

Of course you could argue, about compatibility, surely a system that was running on one machine would need different CPU/motherboard drivers on a different machine, wouldn’t it?

This is where a hypervisors first main advantage comes in; the Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) (technically the VMM is the front end for the underlying hypervisor software, but for the purposes of this blog will be regarded as one thing).

The VMM forms a wedge between a VM and its parent’s hardware. This allows for maximum flexibility, from simulating chipsets, adding fake DVD drives, even changing the RAM allocation on the fly (yes that’s right, changing the RAM allocation without restarting the VM).

Planning to do something strenuous?  Restart the VM with an extra CPU core or two, and then take them away again when it has finished, freeing the resources to be used by another VM.

Why though do I need all these virtual machines, surely just turn the hypervisor into a single ‘super’ machine and it will be able to do all I need just as well? Well this is where the last main advantage of a VMM/Hypervisor comes in.

The machines it hosts are held in isolated environments, if you test on the main machine you could wreck the main machine and lose everything, you break one task specific VM and that is a lot less information to have to restore from your backups! A VM image is not just highly portable, it’s highly backup-able as well, as just one big file – making restores really quick.

So to sum up;

  • Hypervisors host Virtual Machines, which can do everything a normal computer can do
  • It is relatively simple to transfer VMs from one hypervisor to another
  • They provide an isolated environment, so if one has a problem, the rest of your system is fine
  • You can change the resource allocation on the fly

To find out more about the tools we use to keep your websites and our services running smoothly, stay tuned for future updates from the development team.

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