The Importance of Hypervisors
Hypervisors are important. They are the main tool that helps your hosting provider manage all the virtual machines that connect you with YOUR sensitive data. At first, Hypervisors might seem like something only the hosting provider needs to worry about. But you should be aware of what features the hypervisor running your virtual machine has. Some hypervisors are very basic and just allow you to connect to your server. But others have features like backup snapshots that can save you time and money. Knowing what features a hypervisor has will give you more control over your server, and help you make sure you are getting a good value from your hosting provider.
A hypervisor is a layer of software that allows the hosting provider to create, provision, modify, and manage virtual machines (VMs). A Hypervisor provisions a set of real hardware and partitions it into isolated VM environments. The hosting provider can then add or remove resources, perform backups, and remotely control each virtual server with a few clicks. The hypervisor allows you or your hosting provider to access the virtual server through remote computing protocols. Common protocols are SSH, RDP, and VNC.
Hypervisors don’t just do basic hardware provisioning like picking how much RAM the server has or the CPU speed, but also let the hosting provider mix and match from a pool of hardware on the server rack. For example, when choosing storage, a hosting provider can choose which tier to provision. It could be an SSD tier or an array of spindle hard drives. ZebraHost currently provisions all new machines on SSD only. The more advanced the hypervisor, the more options involving hardware and network connectivity that can be customized.
Think of these hypervisors as ‘virtual machine management software’. The hypervisor is a layer that either runs directly on the server hardware itself (known as bare metal) or as a separate window on top of a host operating system (like parallels on a mac). These two types are known respectively as type 1 and type 2 hypervisors.
Type 1: a type 1 hypervisor is installed directly on server hardware. They are usually used in data centers and designed for professional data management use. A type 1 hypervisor is installed on a server in a data center much like an OS on a computer. Type 1 hypervisors allow more advanced hardware provisioning and a large performance increase over type 2 hypervisors because they are installed on the hardware itself.
One of the most popular options for type 1 hypervisors are KVM hypervisors. These are kernel-based, open-source hypervisors installed on the hardware. These hypervisors come with the advanced functionality provided by the Linux kernel.
Type 2: Type 2 hypervisors run on top of a host operating system (like Mac OS or Windows). Type 2 utilizes the hardware of the host machine while creating a virtual version of an operating system. Usually managed from a window. Type 2 hypervisors are typically for consumer and temporary use. Applications would include running untrusted software, development testing, or testing out an operating system. One of the most common examples is Oracle Virtual Box.
Why Hypervisors Matter for You
When inquiring about professional hosting services, make sure your hosting provider is using a professional-grade type 1 hypervisor. Some examples would be a KVM based solution like Verge.io, VM Ware, or Microsoft Hyper-V.
But while hypervisors are conveniently split into two BROAD categories, not all of them are created equal. Some are inexpensive but lack critical controllability features. Others are expensive but offer features like built-in backup that alleviate the need for other service subscriptions. Some, like Microsoft Hyper-V, are proprietary and only accessible with licensed software.
Before getting into more detailed questions you will want to make sure your hosting provider is using a feature-rich hypervisor with built-in security and backup solutions (it might save you from disaster one day). Built-in backup will also make sure you are getting the most value possible out of your host.
Questions you will want to research yourself or ask your potential future hosting provider.
- What kind of VM management tools are available?
You will want to make sure you are choosing a host that has a feature-rich hypervisor. When an environment is virtualized, it needs tools to be managed remotely. Here’s an example. ZebraHost uses Verge.io. Verge.io is a cloud management provider that uses a KVM-based hypervisor. It allows for the remote management and creation of multiple, isolated tenants within a virtual environment. Need to spin up a new VM in a flash? In a feature-rich hypervisor like Verge.io you can do that. Need to perform a backup within seconds and be able to restore it in minutes? Again, a feature-rich hypervisor like Verge.io can do that. Capabilities like these can often save you money because you don’t need to purchase extra 3rd party software licenses for your server.
- High availability?
High availability (HA) is a hosting strategy where a stack always maintains free storage and redundant hardware. This means that if there is a hardware failure, your data can copy to the next available server. It also means that if hardware fails, there is another set of hardware to take its place. The result is less data loss and less potential downtime. Make sure your hypervisor works well with high availability hosting options.
- Does the hypervisor have a great support network?
Knowledge is power – especially in a world dominated by the public cloud. A hypervisor should have training available, a great community, customer support, and be intuitive enough to develop a good understanding of how it works. Having a great support network opens the door to more solutions.
- Is the hypervisor reliable?
The last thing you want is an unreliable hypervisor. It’s your gateway to your virtual machine. Consider researching how long the hypervisor has been around, if people have had issues with security or malfunctions, and make sure it works like it is supposed to. Great hypervisors are reliable while also have cutting edge tech.
Finally, the cost. The cost is usually something paid by your hosting provider. But knowing how much a hypervisor costs can help you understand if your getting a good value from your hosting. You should partner with a hosting provider that has an excellent, feature-rich hypervisor and will host your VM at a fair price.
Hypervisors are an important technology for anyone that uses virtual machines. While the hypervisor will likely be a utility used more by your hosting provider than yourself, it is still important to understand how hypervisors work so you can be in control of your data. Understanding which hypervisor your hosting provider uses will also let you know if you are getting a fair deal or if there are cost-saving measures you can take advantage of.