When deploying software in a cloud environment, containers and virtual machines (VM) are two popular options for setting up and maintaining applications.
While on the outside, both these technologies appear to be very similar, on the inside, there are significant architectural differences to set these technologies apart. As a result, VMs and containers each offer distinct advantages for software deployment. However, both options are vital for improving the application deployment and portability and greatly enhance the quality of the software development lifecycle.
This article goes into the details of containers vs VM and covers the differences between the two technologies. First, let’s start the discussion around containers vs VM with a short overview of virtualization.
How Does Virtulization Work?
Virtualization is the process where hardware resources (processors, RAM, storage, and network) are abstracted and presented as multiple sets of resources. This idea allows multiple workloads to be executed on a single combination of physical hardware resources.
As a result, virtualization is an ideal tactic because you can save on costs and optimize resource utilization. In addition, you can quickly move applications between different environments without worrying about resource availability and runtime environment.
To illustrate the point, consider a server that has all typical resources. With virtualization, you can set up multiple virtual servers. You can set up different OS and software on each virtual server. From the perspective of each virtual server and software, they have access to a physical server with all the resources it needs for smooth performance.
What is Hypervisor?
When discussing virtualization, you’d often come across the term hypervisor. Also known as a virtual machine manager (VMM), it is a method of hardware vitalization that enables concurrent operations of several guest OS on a single physical host machine. During the process, the host’s hardware is shared among all the guest OS. As a result, each guest OS gets a share of the host’s CPU, RAM, storage, and network access.
Essentially, the hypervisor creates multiple virtual machines isolated from each other. You can install different OS and software on each virtual machine.
What are Virtual Machines (VMs)?
Containers are lightweight, isolated environments that contain everything an app needs to run smoothly. Instead of using a hypervisor to manage resource allocation, containerized environments have a container engine that controls the interactions between the underlying OS and the containers. Containers contain the application code and required dependencies in a portable package. Since the containers are self-contained, they can be moved to a new environment that could be hosted on different infrastructures.
Advantages of Virtual Machines
- Virtual machines function as independent systems. This implies that virtual machines on a shared host are safe from any threats or interference from other virtual machines hosted on the server.
- VMs can be customized to run various operating systems and software components required to fulfill the requirements of specific projects and applications.
- VMs are more dependable since they are largely unaffected by changes to the host machine’s hardware configuration or underlying operating system.
What is Container Virtualisation?
Containers are lightweight, isolated environments that contain everything an app needs to run smoothly. Instead of using a hypervisor to manage resource allocation, containerized environments have a container engine that controls the interactions between the underlying OS and the containers.
Containers contain the application code and required dependencies in a portable package. Since the containers are self-contained, they can be moved to a new environment that could be hosted on different infrastructures.
Advantages of Containers
- Containers may be changed and improved upon extremely quickly since they are lightweight and only hold high-level software. This also means excellent speed when compared to VM.
- Containers can help cut expenses since they consume fewer resources than VMs.
- Containers are made to be movable and operate in a wide variety of infrastructure settings.
- Containers offer better security since they are not connected to one another and rely exclusively on the underlying container engine and server OS for security.
Containers vs Virtual Machines: Critical Differences
Containers and VM are very implementations of the general idea of resource virtualization. The significant points in the containers vs VM debate center around how they virtualize hardware resources and OS interactions.
Here’re the essential points in this debate.
- Efficiency: Containers share the same operating system kernel as their host machine, meaning they can use fewer resources than VMs since they don’t need to run an entire guest operating system.
- Scalability: The main difference between containers and VMs is how they handle resources. This makes containers more lightweight and efficient than VMs, allowing them to be deployed quickly and easily.
- Portability: Containers are designed to be portable across different environments, making it easy to move them from one platform or cloud to another. The requirement for a full-featured guest operating system, which might not always be compatible with the host environment, makes VMs less portable than containerized solutions.
- Security: VMs provide a higher level of security than containers, as each VM is completely isolated from other VMs running on the same host machine.
- Dynamism: A virtual machine can be used as a basic computer when the basic hardware description for the virtual machine has been established. VMs are isolated from each other, and thus you can install different software stacks on individual VMs.
Containers vs Virtual Machines – Which One Should I Use?
The answer to this question depends on the type of software stack and the environment you wish to run for your applications.
Containers are the best option if your software stack requires mobility, scalability, and flexibility. In a containerized environment, applications run in isolated silos containing only the application code and dependencies. This allows for faster deployment and rapid application prototyping.
On the other hand, VMs are a better choice if you want more control over the environment in which your business application would run. Similarly, if you want to run an older version of your software stack components, particularly the OS layer. You should know that this control comes at the cost of slower execution and little to no portability.
Containers and VMs both have benefits and drawbacks. Containers can help you save expenses related to application hosting. They also make your applications more portable and faster. However, they are less versatile and dependable than VMs and offer less security.
However, VMs demand more resources to run and provide better security, flexibility, scalability, and dependability. Therefore, the decision between containers and VMs will ultimately be based on the particular requirements of your project.
Let us know where you stand in the containers vs VM debate.
Are containers better than VMs in terms of security, efficiency, and scalability?
The real answer is that it depends on your project’s requirements.
Containers provide more flexibility and permit better resource consumption than VMs because containers don’t need a dedicated native OS layer. As a result, containers offer better scalability than VMs. However, since the underlying OS is shared, containers could not be as secure as virtual machines.
Are containers faster than VMs?
Containers have a smaller footprint because the image is usually in megabytes (as opposed to gigabytes for VM). When deployed, operated, and managed, containers use fewer resources. Consequently, containers are faster than VMs.
How many containers can be deployed in a Docker environment?
The number of containers in a Docker environment depends on the resources available on the host machine. Generally, a single server can run up to hundreds of containers. However, this number can vary depending on the size and type of applications running inside the containers.
Does it make any sense to use containers on top of VMs?
Containers are faster – A VM can take at least a few minutes to boot and be ready. Many container deployments employ VM to avoid running directly on hardware for maximum performance.
Can you summarize containers vs VMs?
While VMs are often used to build a whole virtualized computing environment, containers are primarily used to deploy and execute apps.
With the help of containers, developers may pack an application with all its dependencies and deploy it as a single unit in a small, isolated environment.
Conversely, VMs offer a fully virtualized hardware platform that can run several operating systems and applications. They are better suited for legacy or business applications that need a complete operating system.