The force driving server virtualization is similar to that which led to the development of time-sharing and multiprogramming in the past. Although the resources are still shared, as under the time-sharing model, virtualization provides a higher level of security, dependent on the type of virtualization used, as the individual virtual servers are mostly isolated from each other and may run their own full-fledged operating system which can be independently rebooted as a virtual instance.
Partitioning a single server to appear as multiple servers has been increasingly common on microcomputers since the launch of VMware ESX Server in 2001. The physical server typically runs a hypervisor which is tasked with creating, releasing, and managing the resources of "guest" operating systems, or virtual machines. These guest operating systems are allocated a share of resources of the physical server, typically in a manner in which the guest is not aware of any other physical resources save for those allocated to it by the hypervisor. As a VPS runs its own copy of its operating system, customers have superuser-level access to that operating system instance, and can install almost any software that runs on the OS, however due to the number of virtualization clients typically running on a single machine, a VPS generally has limited processor time, RAM, and disk space.
Although VMware and Hyper-V dominate in-house corporate virtualization, because of their cost and limitations they are less common for VPS providers, which instead typically use products such as OpenVZ, Virtuozzo, Xen or KVM.