A virtual machine is a software computer that, like a physical computer, runs an operating system and applications. The hypervisor serves as a platform for running virtual machines and allows for the consolidation of computing resources.

Each virtual machine contains its own virtual, or software-based, hardware, including a virtual CPU, memory, hard disk, and network interface card.

Software called the hypervisor is installed on the physical hardware in a virtualized datacenter, and acts as a platform for virtual machines. ESXi is the hypervisor in a vSphere environment. The hypervisor provides physical hardware resources dynamically to virtual machines as needed to support the operation of the virtual machines. The hypervisor allows virtual machines to operate with a degree of independence from the underlying physical hardware. For example, a virtual machine can be moved from one physical host to another, or its virtual disks can be moved from one type of storage to another, without affecting the functioning of the virtual machine.

Because virtual machines are decoupled from specific underlying physical hardware, virtualization allows you to consolidate physical computing resources such as CPUs, memory, storage, and networking into pools of resources that can be dynamically and flexibly made available to virtual machines. With appropriate management software, such as vCenter Server, you can also use a number of features that increase the availability and security of your virtual infrastructure.