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VMs vs. Containers

What are VMs vs. Containers?

Virtual machines is defined as a program that virtualizes physical hardware such as computers. Businesses could create multiple virtual machines on one physical machine, with each one containing its own operating system, memory, storage, and CPU. Containers, on the other hand, virtualize operating systems. They share the operating system (OS) kernel between them, but each container runs its own isolated application with unique filesystems and resources. While virtual machines (VMs) and containers both enable running several applications on one physical machine, there are key differences between the two.

What the Differences Between VMs vs. Containers?


VMs provide complete isolation from the host operating system and other VMs. This is useful when a strong security boundary is critical, such as hosting apps from competing companies on the same server or cluster.  Containers typically provide lightweight isolation from the host and other containers, but doesn't provide as strong a security boundary as a VM.

Virtualization Layer

For VMs, the virtualization is the underlying physical infrastructure. And for containers, it virtualizes the operating system.


Virtual machines are more size-intensive compared to containers. VMs are much larger (think in terms of GB). While containers are lighter weight (think in terms of MB)


The startup time for containers is faster than VMs. VMs address infrastructure challenges by maximizing server efficiency and providing limited workload flexibility.


Containers, on the other hand, tackle application-related issues by enhancing DevOps practices, facilitating microservices architecture, boosting application portability, and optimizing resource utilization.

What Are the Pros and Cons of VMs?

VMs can help businesses run more than one OS and multiple applications all from one computer. This can save money and improve performance through proper resource utilization. Some of the additional pros of VMs include:

  • Their isolated nature makes them easy to move, more secure, and simpler to test
  • They replicate a complete computing environment, including OS resources
  • They streamline the process of transferring workloads between on-premises and cloud-based platforms, enhancing portability and migration capabilities

However, because VMs share physical resources with other VMs on the same machine, performance can dip if there’s too much demand. Improper configuration can also lead to security risks.Other cons of VMs include:

  • VM images often require gigabytes of storage, resulting in lengthier backup and migration processes between platforms
  • Due to their all-encompassing nature, physical servers can accommodate fewer VMs than containers

As long as VMs are implemented correctly, however, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Containers?

Much like VMs, containers are highly portable. They’re more lightweight and efficient than VMs because they share the OS kernel. More containers can run on one physical server than virtual machines. Containers are very scalable, allow for isolation between applications, and can be deployed very quickly.


However, containers are not without their risks. They can also be misconfigured, like VMs, adding unnecessary security risks. Performance and reliability can suffer if storage and networking aren’t planned accordingly. And while containers can feel simple due to isolation, they can also welcome complexity into IT infrastructure, leaving you with more to manage.

How Do Containers Work in Traditional IT?

Containers work in traditional IT by using a container runtime environment, which provides the essential resources for containers to operate - CPU, memory, file systems, and network stacks, for example.


Once created, containers can deploy and manage microservices-based applications, or even modernized legacy applications by deploying old applications to new infrastructure. Additionally, containers provide a lightweight and portable way to encapsulate applications and their dependencies, allowing them to run consistently across different environments.

How Do VMs Work in the Digital Emerging IT Space?

Cloud computing platforms, like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), utilize VMs to maintain scalability, flexibility, and cost optimization within the cloud infrastructure. VMs can also create environments where containers can run.


Emerging technologies, including edge computing and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, benefit from VMs. Edge computing involves distributing computation and data storage closer to the end-user, which is facilitated by VMs. IoT devices, including wearable health trackers, home security devices, and more, are connected to the internet and can utilize VMs to deploy and manage applications. VMs play a crucial role in supporting these digital emerging IT spaces by providing the necessary infrastructure for these technologies to function effectively.

VMs vs Containers: Which Should You Use?

When you’re trying to choose between VMs and containers, you’ll want to keep your budget, application requirements, and available IT expertise in mind.


VMs are the appropriate choice for businesses that are looking to run legacy applications or isolated applications, as well as applications that have specific hardware requirements. As long as you have the budget and skills to pull it off, you’ll want to work with virtual machines.


Containers are better suited for microservices-based applications or other scalable applications that can share an operating system. This can also be a less expensive option compared to VMs.


Because containers can run in VMs, the best option may be to use both.

How TierPoint Can Help With VMs and Containers

Looking to add VMs, containers, or both to your IT strategy? TierPoint can help you deploy the resources that will boost your performance and move your business forward. Learn more about our cloud services.

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