Beginner's Guide to Virtualization

Tony Su
November 7, 2018

Why is virtualization important?

  • Massive improvements in hardware utilization and efficiency including over-provisioning
  • Basis for practically all cloud computing (excluding containers, non-hypervisor cloud computing is for all purposes non-existent, there was an Oracle concept that once existed)

Major Platform benefits

  • Multitude of new backup and restore options
  • Portability
  • Hardware utilization
  • Provisioning (no new hardware may need to be purchased)
  • Availability (On Demand deployment)
  • Isolation
  • Disposability

Low Learning Curve

  • Builds on common concepts in the physical world


  • Most deployments will use bridge devices to implement networking
  • Security now involves a HostOS, not just the GuestOS
  • Multi-tenant management

Virtual Networking

  • The Bridge device

Guest VM

Bridge Device

Physical Network

Guest VM2

Type 1


Type 2

The Rest of the World (Virtualization)


  • Software only (Early 1990's?)
  • Hardware Assist CPU and RAM only 2005/2006
  • Today - in process of virtualizing I/O (primrily devices) and implementing hardware pass-through
    Hardware pass-through allows a Guest (or Host) to monopolize real mode address to the device
  • SR-IOV - PCI-SIG Single Root I/O Virtualization
  • GPU - IOMMU input/output memory management unit

Bottom line consequences of evolutionary changes...
Hardware can, has been and is becoming commoditized

Choosing a virtualization technology

  • Student
  • Newbie
  • Developers (Includes work like media transcoding)

VMware Player

Virtualbox VMware Player VMware Workstation ($200 or less)

Virtualbox (but no advanced GPU)

Choosing a virtualization technology, cont.

  • Small business (Personal and On-site Servers)
  • Enterprise

Virtualbox (maybe)
VMware Workstation

Xen (particularly if staging for AWS)
VMware ESX
VMware ESXi
Hyper-V (MSWindows only)

Cross-distribution management tools

  • Libvirt
  • Vagrant

Hypervisor Security Issues

  • Vulnerabilities and Exploits have happened but are rare.
  • Patched quickly
  • A Spectre variant currently can theoretically hack username/passwords but today is difficult

GPU Pass-through

List of IOMMU supported hardware



From one of the architects of IOMMU
Most comprehensive reference
Debian reference, probably all applicable except installation




As usual, VBox is a bit behind the others without a clear guide for enabling GPU pass-through. The following link to the VBox Advanced Configuration documentation, specifically PCI passthrough in general and with a section on passing through a webcam


This slide deck is at

Beginner's Guide to Virtualization

By Tony Su

Beginner's Guide to Virtualization

An Introduction to the history, technology and basics for deciding what virtualization to use

  • 690
Loading comments...

More from Tony Su