What does your husband do?

You’d think it was an easy question to answer. Depending on how ambitious I am feeling on any given day, my response ranges from “He works with computers”, “he’s in IT”, “he’s an IT consultant”… and if I am feeling very patient, my response is “he’s a consultant/consulting architect specializing in virtualization technologies”. When I give that last response, whoever I am talking to inevitably responds in one of 3 ways:

1. Oh cool! I love virtual stuff, so like he designs those 3d games you can play?
2. Oh, really, that’s interesting… what is that exactly?
3. <blank stare>

How do you explain virtualization to someone who has no knowledge of technology what so ever? Heck, it’s specialized enough, how do you explain it to someone who has a good grasp of technology but has never been introduced to virtualization?

Here you go:

Look at the computer right there (generally a desktop). It’s kind of big, has a bunch of working parts, needs to have a monitor, keyboard and mouse, a hard drive, memory, a power supply and fans to keep it cool. It takes up a lot of space right? And you have to have power to it all the time, and replace and upgrade the parts over time as well, right?

Well imagine you’re a company, and you have to have several hundred servers to keep your business running, just like that computer. You’re going to need a lot of space where all of the computers can live, you’re going to need a really good air conditioning unit to keep that space cool, you’ll need to hire lots of IT staff to make sure all of the servers are up and running. You’ll need to keep extra parts on hand if any of the servers ever dies. That’s all going to be pretty expensive right? On top of all of that, these very expensive servers you have only ever run at 40-60% of their capacity, so you have all of this extra computing power that you’re never really using.

So when you virtualize a computer, you take that box you see sitting right there and you compact it and transform it and have it run as a piece of software instead. Where you once had a big server, you now have a piece of software that can run on any server. Say a company has 1000 servers, you can virtualize all of them and run the 1000 virtualized servers on 250 physical boxes. Instead of having to power and cool and replace parts for 1000 servers, you only need to do it for 250 now. Pretty cool right?

In addition to less physical overhead for the company, you have better backup features. If one of the server boxes dies, the virtualized servers that were running on it can shift to other boxes so you don’t have any downtime.

That’s generally about as far as I’ll get into the explanation. I’ve found it’s a pretty good starting point for someone who knows nothing about virtualization technologies and just needs a basic understanding for what my husband does. It also seems to be a good enough explanation that when confronted with the “what do you do” question, my husband will turn to me and ask me to explain.

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