In computing, a virtual machine (VM) is an emulation of a particular computer system. Virtual machines operate based on the computer architecture and functions of a real or hypothetical computer, and their implementations may involve specialized hardware, software, or a combination of both.
Various different kinds of virtual machines exist, each with different functions. System virtual machines (also known as full virtualization VMs) provide a complete substitute for the targeted real machine and a level of functionality required for the execution of a complete operating system. A hypervisor uses native execution to share and manage hardware, allowing multiple different environments, isolated from each other, to be executed on the same physical machine. Modern hypervisors use hardware-assisted virtualization, which provides efficient and full virtualization by using virtualization-specific hardware capabilities, primarily from the host CPUs. Process virtual machines are designed to execute a single computer program by providing an abstracted and platform-independent program execution environment. Some virtual machines, such as QEMU, are designed to also emulate different architectures and allow execution of software applications and operating systems written for another CPU or architecture. Operating-system-level virtualization allows the resources of a computer to be partitioned via the kernel's support for multiple isolated user space instances, which are usually called containers and may look and feel like real machines to the end users.