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What is the difference between virtual machine and container?


Virtual machines and containers are two different technologies used for virtualization.

A virtual machine (VM) is a software-based emulation of a physical machine. It allows multiple operating systems to run on a single physical machine, each in its own isolated environment with its own set of resources, including CPU, memory, storage, and network interfaces. Each VM runs a complete operating system, including its own kernel, drivers, and applications.

A container, on the other hand, is a lightweight virtualization technology that allows multiple isolated applications to run on a single operating system kernel. Unlike virtual machines, containers do not require a separate operating system for each container. Instead, they share the same operating system kernel and use a set of software libraries and tools to isolate the application and its dependencies from the rest of the system.

The key differences between virtual machines and containers are:

1. Resource usage: Virtual machines require a separate operating system for each VM, which can be resource intensive. Containers, on the other hand, share the same operating system kernel, which makes them more lightweight and efficient.
2. Isolation: Virtual machines provide a higher degree of isolation between applications, as each VM runs a complete operating system. Containers share the same operating system kernel and have a smaller attack surface, but they are not as isolated as virtual machines.
3. Portability: Containers are more portable than virtual machines, as they can be easily moved between different systems and environments. Virtual machines require more effort to migrate between different virtualization platforms.

4. Boot time: Virtual machines can take several minutes to boot up, as they need to start a complete operating system. Containers, on the other hand, start up almost instantly, as they only need to load the application and its dependencies.
5. Hardware compatibility: Virtual machines can run on any hardware platform that supports virtualization, but they require a hypervisor to run. Containers, on the other hand, require a compatible host operating system and kernel to run.
6. Scalability: Containers can be scaled more easily than virtual machines, as they are lightweight and have a smaller footprint. Virtual machines require more resources and take longer to spin up, which can make them less suitable for rapid scaling.
7. Security: Virtual machines offer stronger security than containers, as they provide a higher degree of isolation between applications. However, containers are still secure as long as they are properly configured and managed.
8. Software dependencies: Virtual machines are good for running software that requires specific operating system configurations or dependencies. Containers are better suited for running microservices and cloud-native applications that are designed to run in a containerized environment.
9. Management overhead: Virtual machines require more management overhead than containers, as each VM needs to be patched, updated, and maintained separately. Containers share the same operating system kernel and require less management overhead, as updates can be applied to the host OS and automatically inherited by all the containers running on it.
10. Storage: Virtual machines require more storage than containers, as each VM needs to have its own virtual hard disk. Containers can share the same file system and use copy-on-write mechanisms to save disk space.
11. Backup and disaster recovery: Virtual machines can be backed up and restored using traditional backup solutions, but this can be more complicated for containers, as they are designed to be more ephemeral and dynamic. Containerized applications are often backed up and restored using container-specific tools and techniques.
12. Development workflow: Containers are more popular in modern software development workflows, as they can be used to create reproducible and consistent development environments that are easily shareable and portable. Virtual machines are less commonly used in development workflows, as they are less flexible and can be slower to start up and deploy.

In summary, both virtual machines and containers have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them depends on the specific requirements of the application or workload. It's important to consider factors such as resource usage, isolation, portability, boot time, hardware compatibility, scalability, security, and software dependencies when deciding which technology to use.


Siddartha Kumar Das


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