Aren’t Virtualization and Cloud the Same Thing?

Ephraim Baron
Aren’t Virtualization and Cloud the Same Thing?

When discussing technology with customers and coworkers, I often encounter confusion between virtualization and cloud computing.

“Aren’t they the same?” someone will ask.

The short answer is no. In fact, they differ in several respects.

Deploying virtualization in your data center doesn’t automatically mean you’re running a cloud. And it’s possible to deploy clouds without virtualization.


Let’s clear things up by looking at the main characteristics of each.




Ultimate focus Infrastructure Applications
Primary deliverable Abstracted compute, network, & storage Consumable services: Infrastructure (IaaS), Platform (PaaS), Software (SaaS)
Key value propositions Improved utilization, rapid deployment Commodity consumption model, increased agility, capacity on demand
Main customers IT operations managers, systems administrators Business application owners, developers, end-users
What to buy Hypervisor & related tools Services
How to deploy Purchase and install in your facilities Purchase from providers in a marketplace
Consumer interface Computer operating system Service Catalog
Units of capacity System instances: CPU, memory, disk space, I/O Compute cycles, bytes, & IOPS
Degree of difficulty Quick to deploy on familiar infrastructure Re-architect & replace
Cost implications Significant capital outlay for hardware & software Pay-as-you-go expense
Breadth of solutions Relatively limited: VMware vSphere, Citrix Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V, other OpenSource Thousands of vendor offerings
Degree of change Evolutionary Transformational

So while the lines between virtualization and cloud are often blurry, they are essentially different.

They play at different levels of the application stack.

Virtualization is a foundational technology that makes IT infrastructure more flexible.

Clouds offer abstracted pieces and parts that can be assembled to deliver end-user services.

Clear or cloudy?

Information Technology stack showing technology layers addressed by virtualization and by cloud computing.

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