Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers

By Mohit Uniyal|Updated : May 13th, 2022

Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers: In virtualization process, virtual machines and containers are used to virtualize the resources and used to represent them as multiple resources. The major difference between virtual machines and containers is that containers can only be used to virtualize the layer of software above the operating level whereas virtual machines will virtualize the entire machine.

Here, we will first discuss about what are virtual machines and containers and then we will discuss about the differences between the virtual machines and containers on various factors.

Table of Content

What are Virtual Machines?

Virtual machines software packages. These are heavy packages and carry emulation of hardware which are low level such as Disk, CPU, etc. They provide complete functional dummy of computational system. They also provide full isolation security. The does not have as good iteration speed as the cpntainers but encompass full stack system.

A few popular virtual machine providers are:

  • Virtualbox
  • VMware
  • QEMU

What are Containers?

The containers are also known as software packages. The containers are used to contain all the necessary dependencies required for the exdcution of the application. There are various items kept in a container which is a software package. These carry high level software and carry high iteration speed. 

The examples of a few popular container providers are mentioned below:

  • Docker
  • RKT
  • Linux Containers (LXC)
  • CRI-O

Now let us understand some facts about virtual machines vs containers and which should be preferred as per the required task.

Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers

Virtual machines and containers carry various similarities such as both being software packages, but there exists a few differences between the two which are mentioned in the table provided below:

Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers
Virtual MachinesContainers
It is used to virtually control other software.It is used to allow functionality of different applications independently. 
It is used to virtualize the entire computer system.This virtualise the operating system.
Large size.Smaller size.
Comapritively slow speed.High speed of run.
Highly secure.Less secure.
Examples: KVM, QEMU, Xen, VMware.Examples:RancherOS, Docker, RKT, PhotonOS.


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  • The major difference between Virtual Machines and Containers is that virtual machines are used to virtualize the entire computer system, whereas container is used to virtualize the operating system only.

  • As per the processing speed, containers have high speed than the VM whereas VM is more secure than the containers. The size of the VM is higher than that of containers.

  • Containers are different from Virtual machines as they can only virtualize the operating system, unlike VM which will virtualize the entire computer system. They can run an application at a relatively higher speed.

  • As per the experts, containers may replace VM to an extent but can not completely replace them. It is so because containers can only virtualize the OS and not the entire computer system.

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