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 focusInfrastructureApplications
Primary deliverableAbstracted compute, network, & storageConsumable services: Infrastructure (IaaS), Platform (PaaS), Software (SaaS)
Key value propositionsImproved utilization, rapid deploymentCommodity consumption model, increased agility, capacity on demand
Main customersIT operations managers, systems administratorsBusiness application owners, developers, end-users
What to buyHypervisor & related toolsServices
How to deployPurchase and install in your facilitiesPurchase from providers in a marketplace
Consumer interfaceComputer operating systemService Catalog
Units of capacitySystem instances: CPU, memory, disk space, I/OCompute cycles, bytes, & IOPS
Degree of difficultyQuick to deploy on familiar infrastructureRe-architect & replace
Cost implicationsSignificant capital outlay for hardware & softwarePay-as-you-go expense
Breadth of solutionsRelatively limited: VMware vSphere, Citrix Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V, other OpenSourceThousands of vendor offerings
Degree of changeEvolutionaryTransformational

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.