Software for Virtualization: 18 Options

Virtualization allows both small and large companies to use computer resources efficiently. Basically, virtualization uses software to create a virtual computing environment that essentially divides one hardware system into many to simulate the hardware functions of multiple computers. Each virtual computer works as an independent entity, running its own system software as a separate part of the underlying hardware. Virtual systems can duplicate the system software of the “real” hardware entity or run completely different system software.

In this article, you’ll learn about different types of virtualization and the most popular software in each category.

Server virtualization

Although most servers are large and powerful machines, most use only 15% of their resources. Dividing a server into multiple virtual servers that work independently using the “real” server’s resources is a better use of an expensive server’s (and by extension, the company’s) resources. For example, a single server can serve as a company’s mail server and database server simultaneously.

Let’s look at the top three software packages to virtualize a server.

VMware vSphere

VMware is the market leader in virtualization software. While VMware is geared toward Windows-based environments, it also runs on Linux and macOS systems.

Red Hat Virtualization

Red Hat is a Linux-based server virtualization software. It’s a less expensive option than VMware vSphere.

Microsoft Hyper V

Microsoft Hyper V is another server virtualization platform geared toward Windows-based environments. While it also runs on Linux-based systems, it doesn’t support macOS servers. It’s more cost-effective than VMware vSphere, making it a contender for enterprises that rely on Windows environments. However, it also has fewer options. One of the limitations is that it can run on only 320 processors.

Server virtualization is beneficial for companies that already have expensive and powerful servers. They can use these servers to maximize capacity by using server virtualization.

Desktop virtualization

Desktop virtualization differs from server virtualization. Rather than operating on a server, desktop virtualization provides individual employees of companies their own virtual desktop environment. Users can connect to a company’s secure virtual desktop from anywhere on any device, including a desktop, laptop, or a tablet. It’s often compared with a VPN (virtual private network) connection. A VPN client connects to a company's central server and lets users access shared folders, drives, and virtual machines. VPN completely depends on the employee system. So, employees need to have newer-model PC to run organization apps. In contrast, virtual desktops bring a complete operating system to the user's device.

Desktop virtualization greatly reduces the chances of data theft and other types of hacking because there’s a centralized server. The centralized server has complex organization security parameters, so it’s difficult to hack. Through this centralized computer server, each instance of the virtual operating system is only on a single user's device. Desktop virtualization can work in Windows, macOS, and Linux environments.

Amazon Workspaces

Amazon Workspaces is a cloud-based desktop virtualization service. It can be accessed from a variety of devices on most operating systems.

Citrix Workspace

Citrix provides a hybrid model: its desktop virtualization service can be cloud-based or on-premises. It's secure and easy to implement. It works on all operating systems, including macOS.

VMware Horizon Cloud

VMware offers cloud and on-premises services for secure desktop virtualization but only for Linux and Windows operating systems, not macOS.

Desktop virtualizations help companies cut costs on expensive employee computers or laptops. When in the office, they can connect through thin clients or remotely through their personal laptops. But desktop virtualization also uses a company's network, so it needs to be fast and efficient.

Network virtualization

With network virtualization, you can create virtual networks out of physical networks. This lets you combine a company's various physical networks into one manageable virtual network. With a virtual environment, you can move virtual machines from one network to another without reconfiguring the machines.

Network virtualization offers a better way to manage hardware-based networks using software. Here are a few network virtualization software packages for your consideration.

VMware NSX

VMware NSX creates secure virtual networks and works closer to virtual machines. Most enterprises have a lot of virtual machines, and VMware NSX streamlines managing them.

Previously, most networks were hardware based and difficult to manage, and virtualization software makes networking easier.

Cisco Enterprise Network Functions Visualizations (NFV)

This offering builds on Cisco’s expertise in network hardware devices to offer virtual networks managed through software. You can deploy it not only on Cisco networks but also on any network.


This is a free and open source network virtualization tool. Open source developers maintain it, and it has extensive documentation available along with strongcommunity support. It offers a web-based interface to manage the network.

Network virtualization helps companies become more cost-effective. They can automate their networking and security protocol with network virtualization. They can apply new protocols with the push of a button. And they become less dependable on the costly networking hardware devices and have a better software layer to maintain them better.

Application virtualization

This virtualization technique can store any application, like Microsoft Office or PhotoShop, for example, on a central server, which then allows any end-user to access the application. This way, each user doesn't need to install the application on their own machine. Sometimes users are tempted to install pirated versions of costly applications, which brings a lot of risk to enterprises. Hosting virtual applications mitigates that risk.

These are some of the best software packages for application virtualization.

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops

Citrix contains both virtual apps and virtual desktops. Virtual apps include a special mechanism to detect and prevent keyloggers, making them more secure than apps that users install locally. Keyloggers are small programs that a hacker can have installed on even highly secure enterprise laptops. They continuously log a user's keystrokes and send them back to hackers. The prevention mechanism jumbles key strokes so a keylogger installed on the system can't transmit the correct sequence of keystrokes. The hackers get a jumbled sequence, making it harder to retrieve passwords or other sensitive information.

Parallels Remote Application Server

Parallels RAS (remote application server) offers both desktop virtualization and application virtualization. System administrators can manage applications hosted in different locations from a centralized dashboard. For example, they can manage the Microsoft Office installed on a London server and PhotoShop installed on a New York server from one dashboard. With enhanced features, administrators can use the dashboard to restrict any user from any location.

Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V)

Launched in 2006, App-V is one of the earliest pieces of virtualization software. It can make any application virtual. Administrators can also create virtual apps for different versions of the same application, such as Microsoft Office 97 and Office 2000. The creation of different versions of the same application is only available in App-V.

Application virtualization is beneficial for companies because it saves the IT department a lot of overhead. The IT department can manage and update all apps from a central location. Also, there are fewer issues with applications and issues can be solved from a central location.

Storage virtualization

Different vendors provide different physical storage devices and each storage device might have a different structure than the next. With storage virtualization, an administrator can group multiple physical storage instances into a logical unit, which will then appear to users as a single unit of storage. is an innovative storage solution where, in addition to physical storage units, you can combine cloud storage from various providers. For example, an administrator can combine storage from larger cloud providers, like Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft (Azure), or a local storage device, along with storage from a smaller cloud provider, like Digital Ocean. You can see it all as a single storage system.

Nutanix Acropolis Operating System (AOS)

Nutanix AOS builds logical storage out of various physical servers. It can combine data from physical servers created with Microsoft or VMware technology. For example, if you have 1,000GB of storage on a Microsoft server and another 1,000GB on VMware server, it can combine them virtually into 2,000GB of storage even though each server uses a different technology to store data.

StarWind Virtual SAN

StarWind Virtual SAN is similar to Nutanix AOS. It builds logical storage (SAN) out of physical storage. It's capable of the highest uptime in the industry.

Storage virtualization is beneficial for companies because it increases efficiency. For example, managing 3 different terabytes of data (1TB each) on three computers can lead to improper use. But with storage virtualization, this is shown as on 3TB storage, and it can be managed better.

Data virtualization

Data virtualization is a technique in which a single view of data is formed from various sources. As an enterprise grows, it accumulates diverse types of data. Data can come from databases, big data, plain text data, and many other sources. Getting an overview of the complete set of data requires costly extract, transform, load (ETL) tools. Data virtualization tools can take the place of ETL tools. It's particularly beneficial when you don't need historical data from millions of records. ETL tools can handle millions of records and thus, they aren’t the most cost-effective. Data virtualization is designed to handle smaller sets and is less expensive.

Here are the three data virtualization tools:


Actifio provides a pipeline for a data team through which they can retrieve data from all platforms, like databases, excel sheets, or plain text. It can also retrieve data from any previous data analysis.


AtScale provides tools to connect business intelligence (BI) tools to any form of data in an enterprise. Time-based data is one of its features, meaning that it can give the state of the data at any previous time. Anyone can easily integrate all of their data through AtScale.


This application can provide access to data stored on premises, whether in databases or in applications. Even if each application saves data in a different format, CData can retrieve the data and convert them to the same format for analysis.

Data virtualization is beneficial for companies when they need a quick overview of a smaller set of data. They are more cost effective than their ETL counterparts and show data overview in less time.


In this article, you learned about virtualization, its uses, and about different kinds of virtualization, including server virtualization, desktop virtualization, network virtualization, application virtualization, storage virtualization, and data virtualization. You also learned about some of the most popular software packages that can help you choose the right virtualization software for your company, depending on your virtualization needs.

Author Bio

This post was written by Nabendu Biswas. Nabendu has been working in the software industry for the past 15 years, starting as a C++ developer, then moving on to databases. For the past six years, he’s been working as a web developer working in the JavaScript ecosystem and developing web-apps in ReactJS, NodeJS, GraphQL. He loves to blog about what he learns and what he’s up to.

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