What exactly is virtualization? Many talk about it in terms of servers, and being able to run multiple operating systems on a single server. Others talk about cloud computing as a form of virtualization. And, lately, there’s been talk about data virtualization, to make it easier to get at information. Virtualization is a broad topic. If you really want to get technical, you could argue that an operating system such as Windows itself is essentially a form of virtualization, since it employs a logical layer to abstract away a lot of underlying commands and connections within your PC or laptop.
For insurance companies, virtualization presents a special opportunity to finally pull together the various, disparate systems that are run under the same roof. Many carriers have mixed IT environments that employ mainframes for core processing as well as Windows and Linux servers for departmental applications and connecting with agencies. Policy administration, policy verifications, claims processing, and content management all require rapid processing capabilities, Employees now work with mobile devices, and many functions are now sent out to the cloud.
Dan Kusnetzky, a highly respected analyst and head of Kusnetzky Group and formerly with IDC, says there are actually seven forms, or layers, of virtualization, each providing abstraction for a different part of the IT infrastructure. In an article at Virtualization Review, he explains the distinctions. This ought to help clear up some of the confusion about virtualization.
Virtualization Layer 1 Access Virtualization: Get to an application via any type of device.
Virtualization Layer 2 Application Virtualization: Run your application on top of any operating system, even if it’s not originally written for that OS.
Virtualization Layer 3 Processing Virtualization: Run your honking big application across many machines to spread the workload.
Virtualization Layer 4 Storage Virtualization: Get to your data regardless of where it’s stored or what it’s stored on.
Virtualization Layer 5 Network Virtualization: Tap into other networks as if they’re your own.
Virtualization Layer 6 Systems Management Virtualization: Monitor and manage virtual environments, no matter what they are or where they are.
Virtualization Layer 7 Security Virtualization: This is the blanket of protection, Kusnetzky explains. This layer “monitors and protects all of the other layers of virtualization so that only authorized use can be made of the resources.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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