In computing, virtualization refers to the act of creating a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, including virtual computer hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources.

Virtualization began in the 1960s, as a method of logically dividing the system resources provided by mainframe computers between different applications. Since then, the meaning of the term has broadened.


A hypervisor (or virtual machine monitor, VMM) is a computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. A computer on which a hypervisor runs one or more virtual machines is called a host machine, and each virtual machine is called a guest machine. The hypervisor presents the guest operating systems with a virtual operating platform and manages the execution of the guest operating systems.

Multiple instances of a variety of operating systems may share the virtualized hardware resources; for example, Linux, Windows, and macOS instances can all run on a single physical x86 machine.


Operating-system-level virtualization, also known as containerization, refers to an operating system feature in which the kernel allows the existence of multiple isolated user-space instances. Such instances, called containers,[17] partitions, virtual environments (VEs) or jails (FreeBSD jail or chroot jail), may look like real computers from the point of view of programs running in them.

A computer program running on an ordinary operating system can see all resources (connected devices, files and folders, network shares, CPU power, quantifiable hardware capabilities) of that computer. However, programs running inside a container can only see the container’s contents and devices assigned to the container.

Containerization started gaining prominence in 2014, with the introduction of Docker.