Subtle nuances: Containers vs. VMs

2016december20_virtualization_c2016 saw containerization (container-based virtualization) take off as a way for companies to utilize virtual platforms more efficiently. While containers use less resources than their virtual machine (VM) counterparts, performance differences are subtle and don’t necessarily make containers better. For more information on understanding the differences between containers and virtual machines, check out what these differences mean for your business, here.

When it comes to the virtual world, containers and VMs are not all that different. The VM is a good option for those who need to use more than one operating system in the course of a business project, while containers serve those who are comfortable staying within a Linux or Windows operating system without deviating. There are performance advantages to using containers, although these are counterbalanced by organizational advantages derived from a VM system.

Performance Nuances

VMs and containers both work from a virtual platform; therefore, the differences in performance relate to how they are configured and utilized by the people who maintain them.

  • Faster startup time: Containers don’t have as much to start up, making them open more quickly than virtual machines. While it may not seem revolutionary, this can be up to a few minutes per instance — a cost that adds up to quite a bit over the course of a year or more.
  • Resource distribution: Containers only need to pull hardware resources as needed, while a VM requires a baseline of resources to be allocated before it will start up. If you have two VM processes running at the same time, this might mean two of the same programs are pulled up even if they aren’t being used.
  • Direct hardware access: A VM cannot pull information from outside of itself (the host computer), but a container can utilize the host system as it runs. This may or may not matter depending on what your users are doing, but certainly puts a point in the container column nonetheless.

Although it appears that containers out-perform virtual machines in most areas, there are uses for the VM environment, particularly for a business on the rise. With a virtual machine you have a security advantage because each VM environment is encapsulated with its own operating system and data configuration; additionally, you are not limited to the use of one operating system.

Virtualization is an incredibly tricky solution to grasp in its entirety. New avenues spring up all the time to get more use out of its benefits, and it might be tempting to take a “wait and see” mentality. In reality, one of the best things about virtualization is how adaptable it is as a business solution. We suggest you get into the game as soon as possible; give us a call so we can tell you how.

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