How do you know it’s virtualization?

(Sidebar to Winning with enterprise-wide virtualization).

Decoupling and independent. Virtualization is the decoupling of operating systems from hardware, says Andy Gerringer, senior network administrator at Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington, N.C. “As far as a universal definition goes, I guess you would use the term independent,” he says. “If one thing is dependent or reliant on another, then there isn’t true virtualization.

For example, VMware virtualizes an operating system that is independent of the hardware much the same as Softricity virtualizes an application that is independent from the operating system,” says Gerringer, who oversaw a virtualization project that won a 2006 Enterprise All-Star Award.

Logical vs. physical, plus benefits. Virtualization is separating the logical from the physical, with the aim of more flexibility, says Andreas Antonopoulos, senior vice president of Nemertes Research. “Through a looser association between the logical and physical, virtualization should provide flexibility in the form of management, allocation and discovery,” he says. “It should provide gains you can’t get in the physical environment.”

Replacement technology. Others offer more practical guidelines. Tom Taylor, corporate manager for client/server at Baptist Healthcare System, in Louisville, Ky., says he defines virtualization as “using technology to replace the physical attributes of a provided service.” He uses a credit-card analogy: “A credit card is money virtualization. The money gets moved around but there’s no actual cash involved. That’s how it is with IT virtualization as well.”