Virtualization is basically a term used to describe the creation of a computer in software. The main benefits of which are that if you want to try out an operating system or test client server communications you don't have to get multiple computers. You can simply create a few computers virtually, which will act just like the real thing.
There are quite a few virtualization products available, some are free and some cost quite a bit of money. After messing about with quite a few different virtualisation products other the past few weeks I have uncovered a great bit of software called VirtualBox from Sun Microsystems.
After installing VirtualBox it took me only a few minutes to set up a new virtual machine. I decided that I wanted to create a virtual machine with Ubuntu installed on it, so I selected the options that optimise VirtualBox for this system. Note that this doesn't set up a virtual machine with Ubuntu already installed, you have to go and download it yourself! Here is a screenshot of the main interface, which is very easy to understand.
Using virtual machines in the past I have found that to install anything can take a very long time. Installing Ubuntu took not more than 30 minutes, at which point I was presented with the bootup screen.
Here is another shot of the operating system fully loaded.
VirtualBox also supports the creation of snapshots, so if you have a fresh install of an operating system that you want to mess about with (or break) then you can create a snapshot of the virtual machine before you begin. This way, after you trash the system, you can revert back to a snapshot of the system before you started messing about.
The only trouble I had was figuring out how to interface the virtual machine properly with my network, but after reading the documentation this all became very clear.
Overall VirtualBox is a great bit of software, with a detailed and comprehensive manual. I just can't believe that this software is free!