The Varied Uses of Virtualization: Sandboxes

Microsoft Virtualization SandboxEven small businesses are now seriously beginning to consider the benefits of virtualization because of its ability to improve productivity even as it reduces costs.  IT solutions that incorporate virtualization can be used in a variety of different ways to achieve these ends.


Among IT companies, the term ‘sandbox’ has a special meaning.  It refers to an isolated computing environment in which new IT solutions and approaches can be safely tested.  Sandboxes are highly useful in businesses because they allow a company to try out, for example, a new relational database of customer information or experimental code for software development in a way that completely protects the rest of the network and the primary copy of the data from inadvertent error or other data catastrophes.

A virtual machine can be established and then used to examine such new programs.  This keeps valuable physical infrastructures from being monopolized.  When the sandbox is no longer needed because the application is now trusted or because it has been deemed unsuitable, the virtual machine can simply be wiped from existence.  In either case, employees do not need to have any concern that the contents of the sandbox leaked out and affected other data resources.

There are various methods for creating sandboxes. There are tools such as Applets, self-contained programs that run in a virtual machine or scripting language interpreter that does the sandboxing. Other tools include, but are not limited to, virtual machines that copy a complete host computer, new-generation pastebins allowing users to execute pasted code snippets, Linux’ Secure Computing Mode (seccomp) is a sandbox built in the Linux kernel, HTML5 has a sandbox feature for use with iframes. With the ongoing development of virtualization comes new programs that make creating sandboxes easier and more time-efficient. With time-efficiency comes cost-efficiency. The benefits of using a sandbox for testing are evidenced through the success that it's proved for many companies. 

With a managed services approach that incorporates on-the-fly provisioning of virtual machines, sandboxes can also be created on a moment's notice by employees or outsourced IT service experts who need them.  One powerful application of this technology is to train workers so that whenever they download a program from the Internet, they place the executable in a virtualized sandbox created just for the occasion.  This allows such programs to be run in a secure manner. 

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