What is a Virtual Machine?
A Virtual Machine (VM) is a software platform used to perform virtualization, which is very similar to a container. VMs specifically run off a hypervisor, a software designed for multiple operating systems to work simultaneously alongside each other while sharing computing resources.
VMs use their own distinct Operating System (OS) which enables VM’s to carry out various tasks effectively. VMs allow the ability to install new software and modify codes at the OS level since they offer a complete computing environment. Furthermore, VMs can be stored as snapshots in particular states, making it simple to restore them later if a problem emerges. Virtual machines are excellent for software testing because, like containers, they run independent programs on the same hardware. Even if one VM is infiltrated by a malicious application, the security of the host OS and the machine’s software remains unchanged since VMs allocate resources below the guest OS’s security level. As a result, additional VMs running on the same machine are automatically also protected. They are helpful tools for testing software in a variety of settings.
Hypervisors, which control access to the underlying resources for one or more VMs, are the most important of these. Users can construct and administer multiple VMs at once with the aid of other tools. When you set up a VM you must use a pre-configured VM and have all the essential programs downloaded to run smoothly. (Popular virtual machine providers: Virtualbox, VMware, and QEMU)
What is a Container?
Containers are compact software packages that include all the required dependencies needed to run the software applications. System libraries, external third-party code packages, and other operating system-level programs are some examples of these dependencies. A container’s dependencies are located at stack levels that are higher than the operating system. Containers run on either a single process or an application but usually run on a Linux machine. When running on a Linux machine they operate in a separate namespace.
These containers don’t directly depend on or communicate with other processes running on the same machine. The architectural ideas used in various operating system implementations are similar. An extra software interface serves as the channel for all communications among the container and other systems. Although containers enclose the files and components they require to function, a container engine is still necessary for them to function. Users can easily manage and build containers thanks to several crucial tools. Docker, the most popular container system on the market uses a daemon to operate because it lets users build, run, and configure containers. Users love containers because their engines run on multiple environments, package dependencies, are extremely lightweight, and are very reliable. Containers thrive running repeated tasks then divide into individual processes of a larger application and get transferred into microservices. (Popular container providers: Docker, RTK, Linux, and CRI-O)
What is Your Best Fit? Let’s Find Out.
Both containers and virtual machines are strong technologies that provide secure, separate environments for running programs, but they serve different functions.
Containers are ideal for lightweight use cases where immediate hardware access is crucial. They are perfect for isolating various processes from one another or running a single process in numerous instances. Small resource footprints of containers allow for speedy setup and scalability. Shared containers offer transparency through readily scannable images, but they should be periodically checked for flaws. Since new containers can be created from updated images, outdated and less secure containers can be safely destroyed, and updating containerized apps is simple. Due to containers’ quick starting times, automation can be used for rapid updates. Containers also offer flexibility and safe process isolation, making complicated tasks like integrating microservices and creating CI/CD pipelines simpler.
VMs are still frequently used in conjunction with containers, despite their popularity. When testing software that could endanger the OS as a whole or sharing hardware with services using other operating systems, virtual machines are essential. Because containers use the same kernel, malicious malware can more easily compromise the entire system. Furthermore, implementing OS-level modifications inside containers can be difficult and need privileges that counteract the isolation’s security advantages. By contrast, because the OS is installed inside the VM itself, virtual machines permit OS-level modifications using a machine executor. Two essential tools for virtualizing your programs are containers and virtual machines. Whichever you choose to utilize will depend on what you need to do, but both have a big impact on how your CI/CD pipeline is managed.
You may benefit from all of the virtualization’s advantages by integrating the safety of virtual machines with the effectiveness of containers. The advantages of both technologies can be combined by using virtual machines to protect your applications and containers to transport and deliver code between various computers.