Virtualization Basics: Part 1 Hardware Components

Before exploring virtualization we need to have a basic understanding of a server and its components, this post will brief on the components of a physical server.

Components of a Server

Typically any server consists of 2 basic building blocks:

  1. Hardware Component
  2. Firmware/Software component

This Post deals with the Hardware component and Software component to follow.

Hardware Component

The hardware components similar to the components used our laptop or desktop computers but of a higher-grade for obvious reasons (requirements of higher computing power, higher operating times etc). The following paragraphs describe the typical components of a server computer (for that matter even desktop computers).


The motherboard is the computer’s main electronic circuit board to which all the other components of the server are connected. The major components on the motherboard include the processor (or CPU), supporting circuitry called the chipset, memory, expansion slots, a(or many) hard drive controller, and input/output (I/O) ports for devices.

Processor (CPU)

The processor, or CPU, is the brain of the computer and performs the basic arithmetic, logical, control and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the given instruction. Typically, each instruction has a Fetch, Decode and Execute Cycles along with the wait times for the peripherals. Each motherboard is designed to support a particular type of processor. The term clock speed (Usually in MHz/GHz) refers to how fast the basic clock that drives the processor’s operation ticks. In theory, the faster the clock speed, the faster the processor.

Types of processor

  • General Purpose Processor, Processors used in the Desktops/Servers which can be used for various purposes.
  • Application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a microprocessor designed for a particular use case, rather than intended for general-purpose use
  • Graphics processing unit (GPU), a processor designed for doing dedicated graphics rendering computations
  • Physics processing unit (PPU), a dedicated microprocessor designed to handle the calculations of physics
  • Digital signal processor (DSP), a specialized microprocessor designed specifically for digital signal processing
  • Image processor, a specialized DSP used for image processing in digital cameras, mobile phones or other devices
  • Co-processor:A Helper Processor present along with the Main processor to offload few functions of the mail processor
  • Network processor, a microprocessor specifically targeted at the networking application domain
  • Audio processor, a microprocessor used in studios and radio stations

Memory (RAM)

RAM is a volatile types of memory, where stored information is lost if power is removed. When the Desktop/Server is on, the operating System is loaded (whole or in part depending on the operating system) on RAM and then the instructions are fetched by CPU for execution. It takes the form of integrated circuits. The total memory capacity of the server depends on the motherboard.

Types of RAMs

  • Dynamic RAM : loses its stored information in a very short time (for milli sec.) even when power supply is on. D-RAM’s are cheaper & lower.
  • Static RAM  retains stored information only as long as the power supply is on. Static RAM’s are costlier and consume more power. They have higher speed than D-RAMs.
  • EDO (Extended Data Output) RAM : In an EDO RAMs, any memory location can be accessed. Stores 256 bytes of data information into latches. The latches hold next 256 bytes of information so that in most programs, which are sequentially executed, the data are available without wait states.
  • SDRAM (Synchronous DRAMS), SGRAMs (Synchronous Graphic RAMs) These RAM chips use the same clock rate as CPUuses. They transfer data when the CPU expects them to be ready.
  • DDR-SDRAM (Double Data Rate – SDRAM) : This RAM transfers data on both edges of the clock. Therefore the transfer rate of the data becomes doubles. This is the most commonly used RAM for Desktops and Servers.

Storage Drives

They are used for storing and retrieving digital information.These are a type of non-volatile memory, retaining stored data even when powered off. The Operating System is usually stored on the Hard Drive

Types of Storage

  • Magnetic storage devices : Used for storing and retrieving digital information using one or more rigid (“hard”) rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material. The platters are paired with magnetic heads arranged on a moving actuator arm, which read and write data to the platter surfaces. Data is accessed in a random-access manner, meaning that individual blocks of data can be stored or retrieved in any order
  • Optical storage devices : an optical disc is any media read using a laser assembly.
  • Flash memory devices : This type of memory is an integrated circuit that does not need continuous power to retain the data, but is a bit more expensive than magnetic storage though the price gap is closing between Magnetic and Flash Drives.. Today flash memory is becoming more popular but isn’t still not yet a practical replacement for large hard drives.
    • SSD: Short for Solid-State Drive or Solid-State Disk, is a drive that uses non-volatile memory as a means of storing and accessing data, much like computer RAM. Unlike a hard drives, an SSD has no moving parts, which gives it advantages such as accessing stored information faster, no noise, often more reliable, and consume less power.
  • Hybrid drive : SSHD is a more precise term than the more general term hybrid drive, which has previously been used to describe SSHD devices and non-integrated combinations of solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives. Solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD) refers to products that incorporate a significant amount of NAND flash memory into a hard disk drive (HDD), resulting in a single, integrated device.


It is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network. The network connection is one of the most important parts of any server used for delivering most of the services required. The Network card with ports and cable forms the basic building blocks in server networking. The most common type of Network cards available for Servers today is the Ethernet Network cards (Usually PCI based apart from the ones burnt on to the Motherboard) along with RJ45 based Ethernet port and Cat5/6 cables with gives the speed of 1Gbps (Though 2.5/5/10 Gbps are growing in demands)


Fancy graphics aren’t that important for a server computer. You can equip your servers with inexpensive generic video cards and monitors without affecting network performance. (This is one of the few areas where it’s acceptable to cut costs on a server.)


Input/Output ports forms the basic interaction with the servers. Following are the basic IO Ports available to the Server Systems:

  • Input Devices like Keyboard and Mouse
  • Output Devices like Monitor and Rarely Printer
  • Data Ports like Serial Ports, USB

Power supply

A power supply is an electronic device that supplies electric energy to an electrical load. Because a server usually has more devices than a typical desktop computer, it requires a larger power supply (300 watts is typical). If the server houses a large number of hard drives, it may require an even larger power supply.


About jagannaths

A technology professional, with hands-on experience on virtualization (VMware) , wired and wireless (Cellular - LTE) networking infrastructure.
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One Response to Virtualization Basics: Part 1 Hardware Components

  1. Pingback: Virtualization Basics: Part 2 Software Components | allvirtualblog

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