hardware emulation

What is hardware emulation?

Hardware emulation is the use of one hardware device to mimic the function of another hardware device.

A hardware emulator simulates the workings of an entirely different hardware platform than the one it runs on. Hardware emulation is often used to debug and verify systems under design.

Examples of hardware emulation

IT administrators can use hardware emulation to run an unsupported operating system (OS) on a virtual machine (VM).

In such a scenario, the VM does not have direct access to server hardware. Instead, an emulation layer directs traffic between physical and virtual hardware. This is less efficient than paravirtualization, in which the interface for a VM can differ somewhat from that of the underlying hardware.

Likewise, if a particular service can only be installed on a specific guest OS, hardware emulation lets network administrators run and interact with an embedded OS from a desktop that couldn't normally support that OS. An embedded OS is created to run in dedicated hardware environments or on systems not intended for interactive use.

This was last updated in December 2022

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