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If you Google the term "hypervisor" you get endless definitions that state a hypervisor is also known as either a virtual machine monitor or a virtual machine manager, and that it is a form of hardware virtualization. But, being brand new to VMs and their concepts, this is a fuzzy definition for me.

So, what is the difference - and/or relationship between - a virtual machine and its hypervisor? Can someone give a concrete example?

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Do see the wikipedia article on hypervisors. There are a couple different types, which may be partly why you are confused. – Zoredache Sep 22 '11 at 21:00
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The hypervisor is the device or software which runs the virtual machine. It's typically responsible for allocating the resources, providing the interface between the virtual machine (the "guest") and the host system as well as any management software.

So if you're using VMware Workstation to run a Windows 7 virtual machine, VMware Workstation is the hypervisor.

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Why can't they just say that in the reference documentation?!? Thanks! – pnongrata Sep 22 '11 at 20:51
They don't want to make it too easy on you, or you won't pay for the support contract. ;) – Coding Gorilla Sep 22 '11 at 20:52
So... What's the difference between VMM and Hypervisor? – allyourcode Sep 3 '14 at 23:01
@allyourcode Depends on which "VMM" you're talking about and in what context. – Coding Gorilla Sep 4 '14 at 12:31

This is an extension of existing operating system terminology — one that is one of the several alternatives to the seed/nut metaphor. user programs are controlled by the supervisor program, and in a non-virtual system that's where things stop. With virtualization, the supervisor is, in turn, controlled (or monitored, or managed) by a hypervisor program.

All of these programs are softwares. The virtual machine is the pretense of a machine that the supervisor and user programs experience themselves running on. It looks like hardware from the inside.

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Ironically, and this is off-topic, and if I remember correctly, Latin "super" and Greek "hyper" derive from the same original word and mean the same thing. German "ueber" is another sibling. So "supervisor" and "hypervisor" are actually the same word, except that one is all Latin while the other is half Latin, half Greek. :-) – Andrew J. Brehm Sep 23 '11 at 17:20
But in fact, the terminology is all Greek to most of us. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 8 '12 at 4:07

Check this link.

Answer is from Ben Armstrong’s Virtualization Blog

here are actually two meanings for 'VMM'. The first is 'virtual memory manager' - this is part of the Windows operating system and has nothing to do with computer virtualization - and everything to do with operating system memory management. This is not what I am discussing today :-)

The second meaning is 'Virtual Machine Monitor'. There are a number of different programs and implementations that use the moniker 'Virtual Machine Monitor'. In the simplest terms - the VMM is the piece of software responsible for monitoring and enforcing policy on the virtual machines for which it is responsible. This means that the VMM keeps track of everything happening inside of a virtual machine, and when necessary provides resources, redirects the virtual machine to resources, or denies access to resources (different implementations of VMMs provide or redirect resources to varying levels - but that is a topic of discussion for another day).

Classically there are two types of VMM.

A type II VMM is one that runs on top of a hosting operating system and then spawns higher level virtual machines. Examples of type II VMMs include the JavaVM and .Net environment. These VMMs monitor their virtual machines and redirect requests for resource to appropriate APIs in the hosting environment (with some level of processing in between).

A type I VMM is one that runs directly on the hardware without the need of a hosting operating system. Type I VMMs are also known as 'hypervisors' - so the only true difference between a VMM and a hypervisor is where it runs. The functionality provided by both is equitable. Examples of type I VMMs include the mainframe virtualization solutions offered by companies such as Amdahl and IBM, and on modern computers by solutions like VMware ESX, Xen and Windows virtualization.

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