The definition of virtual Linux is as fluid as the Linux platform itself. For the desktop user, virtual Linux translates into being able to use Linux without changing their existing operating system. For those working with servers however, virtual Linux can mean something very different altogether.
In both instances, virtual Linux is fast becoming a term coined to explain the benefits of using a virtual operating system in place of dedicated hardware.
Virtual Linux on the Desktop
To the typical desktop user, virtual Linux is a Linux installation that's not actually installed over their existing operating system. These types of Linux instances come in a number of shapes and sizes. Ranging from a LiveCD such as Knoppix down to installations running in what is called a virtual machine. What's the difference?
Virtual Linux running from a LiveCD for instance, translates into the end user being able to connect to the Internet, try out open source applications and browse from their existing Windows installation. All of this is possible without affecting their current operating system whatsoever.
With a virtual machine or "virtualized" installation of Linux, you are basically installing a fully functional install of Linux into a digital container of sorts. This can prove to be helpful for users who want to develop applications for Linux, yet prefer to keep their primary OS as Windows. Why not simply dual-boot? Hassle factor for one thing, along with the ability to leap from program to program with a near seamless feel to it. There is something to be said for running a virtual Linux machine.