Virtual Machines vs Containers:
POSTED BY APPANNA GANAPATHY
Are virtual machine users actually shifting to container technology? Can containers eventually replace virtual machines?
To answer this question, it’s critical to first understand how both technologies affect servers.
Virtual Machines: Just as its name suggests, a virtual machine is a physical hardware abstraction with a complete server hardware stack, from virtualized CPU to virtualized storage, network adapters and BIOS. All of which is managed by an operating system, which is generally faster when compared to a standard physical server.
Containers: Containers work on a smaller scale compared to virtual machines. The abstraction is done on the operating system opposed to entire hardware stack abstraction with virtual machines. Therefore, they use fewer resources compared to virtual machines and allow users to pack and run multiple applications on a single server. Of course they may seem like much improved server abstraction technologies, but are they an alternative to virtual machines?
Why Containers are Seemingly Overtaking Virtual Machines
Containers are largely considered more effective compared to virtual machines because of their system efficiency. While virtual machines literally utilize all the server resources in running even simple processes, containers zero in only on the necessary resources. A small portion of the server resources is dedicated to running and handling a single process and the rest is freed up to handle other applications. This not only boosts system efficiency, but also allows users to make significant savings on costs.
Due to the abstraction of the operating system, containers facilitate faster boot up processes compared to virtual machines. A standard virtual machine may take about a minute to boot and verify its resources, while a container achieves this in just a fraction of a second. This makes them particularly ideal for sensitive processes which depend on speed and efficiency.
Why Virtual Machines May Be Here to Stay
Security is undoubtedly one of the prime cloud computing concerns. Containers, unfortunately, are significantly disadvantaged to virtual machines when it comes to this. Container technology is severely vulnerable compared to virtual machines. With such a vulnerability, any user with SuperUser privileges could easily crack an operating system. All a hacker needs to do is crack into an account with such features or configure one to SuperUser access rights.
The fact that many containerized applications are available online introduces another security risk. A significant number of these come embedded with malware which launches immediately after installation, compromising the security of your entire system.
Since each technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, it’s safe to conclude that both are here to stay. Although people are fairly excited about containers, they’ll never fully replace virtual machines particularly because each has distinct purposes. If you’d want to run several applications and consequently need increased flexibility, you’d rather leverage a virtual machine. If, on the other hand, you plan to execute several copies of an application, you’d be better off with containers.