What is virtualization?

I was chatting with a neighbor at a local holiday gathering. He's an attorney, keeps up on current events and quickly grasps most concepts.

I was chatting with a neighbor at a local holiday gathering. He's an attorney, keeps up on current events and quickly grasps most concepts. Virtualization, as a concept, has him stumped. Being that analysts often are willing to rush in where wiser people would step back, I did my best to help.

As background, my neighbor mentioned that he had been reading articles in business magazines and newspapers that reference the term, "virtualization." Each of the references, he pointed out,  seemed to be discussing an entirely different concept. He wanted me to explain it to him

I tried to use the usual discussion of developers using high performance processors to allow functions to run in an artificial environment, one that had characteristics that best suited the task at hand rather than what actually existed. I then proceeded to lay out features of access virtualization, application virtualization, processing virtualization, network virtualization and storage virtualization. I pointed out that all of those layers needed protection and management and that those were two separate areas suppliers are intently focused upon.

I spoke about the concept that attorneys often use in contracts where certain selected words can be selected to describe something else. For example the words "the company" can be defined and then used throughout the document to refer to a company. Since he is a successful attorney, he understand that concept. I was unable to help him understand how that concept could be used elsewhere.

As my friends know, I've raised hand waving  to a high art over my years in the industry and yet my neighbor walked away as puzzled as before. I think it is because it is difficult to come up with examples of virtualizing a function in many other areas of life.

Can you help me come up with better examples?

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