Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers: In the 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 what are virtual machines and containers and then we will discuss the differences between virtual machines and containers on various factors such as size, speed, operation, and security.

Difference Between Virtual Machines and Containers

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

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

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 a complete functional dummy of the computational system. They also provide full isolation security. The does not have as good iteration speed as the containers but encompasses a 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 execution 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

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