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What is a cloud virtual machine?

Anjana Shankar


A cloud virtual machine is the digital version of a physical computer that can run in a cloud. Like a physical machine, it can run an operating system, store data, connect to networks, and do all the other computing functions.

Virtual machine is a software-based-computer that exists within the operating system of another computer. In simpler terms, it is a virtualization of an actual computer, except that it exists on another system.

Typically you will have a hypervisor running on the physical machine, and you will have virtual machines running on top of the hypervisor. Hypervisor is a software layer that allows you to virtualize the environment. The operating system running in the virtual machine is called as the Guest Operating System.

Multiple virtual machines can share a single host; that is, they can run on the same physical machine. This increases the usage efficiency of the physical machine and allows the virtual machines to be completely oblivious to their physical environment. The number of virtual machines on a single host is limited by the resources of the physical machine.

The diagram below depicts this:

Virtual machines


There are many advantages to using cloud virtual machines instead of physical machines, including:

  • Low cost: It is cheaper to spin off a virtual machine in the clouds than to procure a physical machine.

  • Easy scalability: We can easily scale in or scale out the infrastructure of a cloud virtual machine based on load.

  • Ease of setup and maintenance: Spinning off virtual machines is very easy as compared to buying actual hardware. This helps us get set up quickly.

  • Shared responsibility: Disaster recovery becomes the responsibility of the Cloud provider. We don’t need a different disaster recovery site incase our primary site goes down.


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