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Containers vs. virtualization: Is it really a competition?


By: Ronda Swaney


Will containers replace virtual machines (VMs)? Is one technology better than the other? Is there really a competition between the two?


Containers and virtualizationFirst, let's define what we mean. A VM is software that emulates the hardware of a physical machine. VMs are self-contained, with their own full operating systems and apps. They also allow businesses to run multiple virtual systems on a single server and essentially virtualize at the hardware level. VMs permit high availability and simplify disaster recovery, with isolation that adds another layer of security. However, they're slow to provision and are resource intensive, which can be problematic under peak loads.


Containers deliver lightweight code packages that run single apps. They use only enough of the operating system, support programs, and other system resources to run that specific app. These tools offer portability, real-time provisioning, and fast start-up, and they use fewer resources. They also provide less security, can only run one OS, and have fewer boundaries.


Will containers replace virtual machines?

The current consensus is no, at least not yet. They have their place and VMs have theirs. Currently, these technologies are more complementary than competitive, and some IT groups may use them separately. Others may choose a hybrid approach, particularly within the enterprise where using one exclusive of the other doesn't really meet their needs. Groups may run containers inside VMs to get the best of both worlds, because VMs provide the security and control while containers deliver speed and easy deployment.


Containers, hybrid infrastructure, and DevOps

Enterprises combine public and private cloud, virtual and physical machines, and leased and owned equipment. There's no end of combinations to create the current hybrid infrastructure environment. As businesses use multiple clouds, app virtualization and cloud portability become necessities. Containers help make these moves and transformations both feasible and economical.


Inside this same hybrid infrastructure, sensible use of resources also becomes key. Containers use fewer resources, making the same infrastructure go further and serve more needs while remaining economic for enterprises.


DevOps is an operating philosophy that speeds continuous integration, delivery, and operations. Containers play well inside that philosophy because they are—as the name tells us—contained, which allows apps to maintain settings and dependencies. Apps don't break as they move from development to testing to production, and operations doesn't have to spend time on installation or troubleshooting. Speed serves as a main consideration with DevOps. The ease and speed with which containers move through the development cycle allows realization of the goals for continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous operations.


In reality, there's no competition between these technologies. Both play a role in the current hybrid infrastructure components of the enterprise. For now, the likely outcome is that more IT groups will want a combination of these tools in their cloud and data centers.


Read why containers are an essential component of the cloud journey. Further explore how containers address significant marketplace needs in Building Better Cloud Through Container Technology.




About the author

Ronda SwaneyRonda Swaney


Content marketer focusing on IT, technology, and healthcare for CXOs, consultants, and entrepreneurs. Ronda advises clients on how to best communicate their messaging by taking complex material and simplifying it to engage both tech geeks and the uninitiated.

About the author

Connect with Ronda:

 Follow me on Twitter @RondaSwaney

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