A virtual machine is an emulation of a computer system, giving the user a completely separate, singular operating system installation on your regular OS. This duality can provide unique benefits to users, especially in the field of industrial automation. Below, we’ll walk through the primary advantages of a virtual machine as well as a few basic tasks that users can employ with the aid of a virtual machine.
Before we break down the specific uses and benefits offered by virtual machines, we need to differentiate between the two variations of said machines. The system virtual machine (also known as full virtualization VMs) provides a substitute for the real machine, containing the functionality needed to execute entire operating systems. On the other hand, process virtual machines are merely designed to execute programs in a platform-independent environment, meaning it is created when the process begins and is destroyed when it finishes. For the sake of the remainder of our discussion, we’ll be referencing the former - the system virtual machine.
A virtual machine offers a plethora of advantages that a regular machine cannot. Firstly, a virtual machine gives you the ability to run another operating system’s software. For example, a Mac user could install Linux or Windows in their VM and run applications they might not otherwise have access to. This gives the user more freedom and a wider catalog to draw from when planning workflow.
Second, a virtual machine is sandboxed. This means the software within your VM can’t escape the virtual machine and tamper with the rest of your system. Because of this, VMs are excellent places to test disreputable applications or websites and see what they do. Furthermore, sandboxing allows users a safe space to run outdated, insecure operating systems safely. For example, a virtual machine can provide a safe environment and protect your system should you still need to use Windows XP to run older applications.
Finally, a virtual machine provides easy maintenance, availability, application provisioning, and convenient recovery. By centralizing network management and reducing dependency on additional hardware, a virtual machine streamlines many of the shortcomings faced by conventional machines. In other words, virtual machines give users more fluidity and flexibility to achieve their goals, while eliminating the potential pitfalls faced by regular machines should they fail.
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