Purple pattern background

A Brief Comparison of Containers and Virtual Machines

Mohammed NaserMohammed Naser

Containers and virtual machines may be perceived to be the same they are fundamentally quite different technologies. Keep reading to learn more.

Although containers and virtual machines may be perceived to be the same they are fundamentally quite different technologies. Moreover, the most significant difference being that containers can enable the virtualization of an operating system so that multiple workloads can run on a single instance. In contrast, virtual machines use hardware to virtualize and run many operating system instances.

Today we are going to give a brief overview of some of the differences between containers and virtual machines. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between the two technologies.

Virtual Machines

Virtual machines came from the necessity to increase power and capacity from bare metal applications. They are made through running software on top of physical services. Meanwhile, this happens to reproduce a particular hardware system called a hypervisor. A hypervisor, also known as a virtual monitor, is hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. It is situated between the hardware and the virtual machine. In other words, its main purpose is to virtualize the server.

Virtual machines have the capacity to run different operating systems on the same physical server and they can be quite large in size - up to several gigabytes. Moreover, each virtual machine has a separate operating system image, which continues to increase the need for memory and storage. This can be an added challenge in everything from testing and development, to production and even disaster recovery. Certainly, it can limit the portability of applications and a cloud solution.

The hypervisor is quite the workforce. For instance, it is responsible for interacting with all NIC cards from all hardware, the same goes for storage within your virtual machine. Furthermore, the hypervisor is quite busy and there is a significant amount of it that is masking from the operating system above it.

vm containers


Containers are a useful way to run isolated systems on a single server or host operating system. For example, since the growth in popularity of operating system virtualization, the software is now able to predictably run from one server environment to another. The containers themselves sit on top of a physical server and its host operating system. Each container shares the host operating system kernel, binaries, and libraries. These shared components are available only as read-only.

One of the major highlights of containers is that they are extremely light and are only megabytes in size. Meaning that they have the potential to start in seconds instead of minutes with virtual machines. Thanks to a common operating system, containers can reduce management overhead all the while fixing bugs and other maintenance tasks. To sum up, the big difference between containers and virtual machines is that containers are significantly lighter and more portable.

Concluding Containers and Virtual Machines

In conlusion, when it comes to containers compared to virtual machines there are many differences. With virtual machines, the hardware is able to run multiple operating system instances. In contrast, containers have the benefit of portability and speed to help them streamline software and its development.

In short, are you curious to learn more about how virtual machines and containers can work within your cloud strategy? Contact us today to speak to one of the experts at VEXXHOST.

Share on social media

Virtual machines, Kubernetes & Bare Metal Infrastructure

Choose from Atmosphere Cloud, Hosted, or On-Premise.
Simplify your cloud operations with our intuitive dashboard.
Run it yourself, tap our expert support, or opt for full remote operations.
Leverage Terraform, Ansible or APIs directly powered by OpenStack & Kubernetes