System virtualization has become the enabling technology to manage the increasing number of different applications inside data centers. The abstraction from the underlying hardware and the provision of multiple virtual machines (VM) on a single physical server have led to a consolidation and more efficient usage of physical servers. The abstraction from the hardware also eases the provision of applications on different data centers, as applied in several cloud computing environments. In this case, the application need not adapt to the environment of the cloud computing provider, but can travel around with its own VM image, including its own operating system and libraries. System virtualization and cloud computing could also be very attractive in the context of high-performance computing (HPC). Today, HPC centers have to cope with both, the management of the infrastructure and also the applications. Virtualization technology would enable these centers to focus on the infrastructure, while the users, collaborating inside their virtual organizations (VOs), would be able to provide the software. Nevertheless, there seems to be a contradiction between HPC and cloud computing, as there are very few successful approaches to virtualize HPC centers. This work discusses the underlying reasons, including the management and performance, and presents solutions to overcome the contradiction, including a set of new libraries. The viability of the presented approach is shown based on evaluating a selected parallel, scientific application in a virtualized HPC environment. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.