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What is Hardware Virtualization?

  • May 30, 2024
  • 10 min read
StarWind Solutions Architect. Anton excels in storage, virtualization, and networking, specializing in architecting highly efficient infrastructures for clients.
StarWind Solutions Architect. Anton excels in storage, virtualization, and networking, specializing in architecting highly efficient infrastructures for clients.


Today, in nearly every corporate IT infrastructure, hardware virtualization stands as a cornerstone of efficient and scalable computing. Virtualization has transformed how organizations manage their IT environments. By enabling better resource utilization and providing greater flexibility, hardware virtualization is essential for businesses aiming to optimize their operations and reduce costs.

What is hardware virtualization?

Hardware virtualization – is a fundamental computing technology that allows multiple virtual machines (VMs) to run on a single physical machine. Hardware virtualization involves creating a virtual version of a computer’s hardware components, such as the CPU, memory, storage and network. This virtual environment, or virtual machine (VM), acts like a real computer, running its own operating system and applications independently of the host system.

How hardware virtualization works?

Hardware virtualization works by using a software layer called a hypervisor to create and manage virtual machines (VMs) on a single physical server. The hypervisor allocates the server’s resources, such as CPU, memory, and storage, to each VM, allowing multiple operating systems and applications to run independently on the same hardware.

Benefits of hardware virtualization

Improved Resource Utilization: By consolidating multiple workloads onto a single physical server, organizations can make better use of their hardware resources. This leads to fewer physical servers needed, reducing energy consumption and physical space requirements.

Cost savings: Reduced hardware requirements translate into significant cost savings on both capital expenditures (buying physical servers) and operational expenditures (maintaining and powering those servers).

Flexibility and scalability: Virtual machines can be easily created, modified, and moved, providing a highly flexible and scalable environment. This agility is crucial for businesses that need to quickly adapt to changing workloads or market conditions.

Isolation and security: Each VM could operate in isolation from others, enhancing security by containing any potential malware or system failures within a single VM without affecting the others.

Simplified management: Centralized management tools enable administrators to manage multiple virtual environments from a single interface, simplifying updates, patches, and other maintenance tasks. This is especially beneficial for companies with IT infrastructure distributed across multiple geographical locations.

Types of hardware virtualization

There are three main types of hardware virtualization, each serving different purposes and offering unique advantages. These types are: Full virtualization, Paravirtualization, and Hardware-assisted virtualization.

Full virtualization

Full virtualization is a type of hardware virtualization where the hypervisor provides a complete simulation of the underlying hardware, creating an environment in which unmodified operating systems can run as if they were directly on the physical hardware. The hypervisor (such as VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, Xen) manages the physical hardware and allocates resources to each VM.


Paravirtualization is a virtualization technique where the guest operating system is modified to communicate directly with the hypervisor, rather than emulating the entire hardware stack. This approach allows for more efficient use of system resources, as the guest OS can make hypervisor calls for certain operations, reducing overhead and improving performance. Paravirtualization is often used when performance is critical, and the guest OS can be altered, such as with Linux-based systems.

Hardware-assisted virtualization

Hardware-assisted virtualization is a technique where the physical CPU provides built-in support to enhance the performance and efficiency of virtual machines. This is achieved through technologies like Intel VT-x and AMD-V, which allow the hypervisor to directly manage and allocate hardware resources to virtual machines with minimal overhead. By leveraging these CPU features, hardware-assisted virtualization improves the speed, security, and stability of virtualized environments, making it a preferred choice for enterprise-level virtualization solutions.

Turning on hardware virtualization

First off, enabling hardware virtualization involves configuring the BIOS settings of the host machine. Here are the general steps on how to enable virtualization:

  1. Access the BIOS Setup: Restart your computer and enter the BIOS setup. This is usually done by pressing a specific key (like F2, F10, Del, or Esc) during the boot process.
  2. Navigate to Virtualization Settings: Look for the virtualization settings. These are often found under sections like “Advanced,” “CPU Configuration,” or “System Configuration.”
  3. Enable Virtualization Technology: Find the setting labeled “Intel VT-x,” “AMD-V,” “Virtualization Technology,” or similar, and set it to “Enabled.”
  4. Save and Exit: Save your changes and exit the BIOS setup. Your computer will reboot with virtualization support enabled.

After enabling virtualization in BIOS, you can proceed with installing the necessary hypervisor software for your specific environment:

  • Windows: Install the Hyper-V role by accessing the “Turn Windows features on or off” settings and selecting Hyper-V.
  • Linux: Install the required virtualization packages, such as KVM, using your distribution’s package manager.
  • VMware: Deploy ESXi by downloading the ESXi installer from VMware’s website and following the installation instructions.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your system is properly configured for hardware virtualization, allowing you to take full advantage of its capabilities.

To conclude: What type of hardware virtualization is most popular?

In modern IT infrastructures, full virtualization is more commonly used due to its ability to run unmodified guest operating systems, offering extensive flexibility and compatibility. Full virtualization leverages hypervisors such as VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, and KVM, which provide a complete abstraction of the underlying hardware. This allows any operating system to run in a virtual machine without requiring modifications, making it highly versatile for various applications and environments.

The widespread adoption of full virtualization is also driven by the integration of hardware-assisted virtualization features like Intel VT-x and AMD-V, which enhance performance by allowing the hypervisor to efficiently manage hardware resources.

This combination of flexibility, compatibility, and improved performance makes full virtualization a preferred choice for businesses looking to maximize the capabilities of their IT infrastructure while ensuring ease of deployment and management.

Additionally, full virtualization supports a wide range of cloud services and virtualization layers, including server, network, storage, desktop, and application virtualization, making it a foundational technology in cloud computing and modern data centers.

Hey! Found Anton’s article helpful? Looking to deploy a new, easy-to-manage, and cost-effective hyperconverged infrastructure?
Alex Bykovskyi
Alex Bykovskyi StarWind Virtual HCI Appliance Product Manager
Well, we can help you with this one! Building a new hyperconverged environment is a breeze with StarWind Virtual HCI Appliance (VHCA). It’s a complete hyperconverged infrastructure solution that combines hypervisor (vSphere, Hyper-V, Proxmox, or our custom version of KVM), software-defined storage (StarWind VSAN), and streamlined management tools. Interested in diving deeper into VHCA’s capabilities and features? Book your StarWind Virtual HCI Appliance demo today!