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The simplest explanation of virtualisaton, which I use when I explain it to my kids, is that my laptop is pretending to be three computers. It's a good enough answer for the casual question. If there's a real interest beyond that you get asked the other questions, such why and how.

Douq Millar

One other advantage to add that, IMHO, really is significant, and that is testing future deployments (new software or upgrades, etc). This was the original motivation in 1967 for IBM to create first virtualization and it still exists today.

Reconfiguration for a new deployment or any kind of upgrade is still a constant challenge. A test VM can run in parallel to the locked down production VM. Testing can be as thorough (performance, functionality) as anyone needs so that once deployed this new configuration can go into production more smoothly.

Currently in software development environments this was one of the earliest (and still strong) benefits of VMWare (or even in your PC analogy upgrading from XP to Win7).

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