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Difference between Virtual Machines and Containers

Last Updated : 03 Oct, 2023
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Virtual machines and Containers are two ways of deploying multiple, isolated services on a single platform.

Virtual Machine:

It runs on top of an emulating software called the hypervisor which sits between the hardware and the virtual machine. The hypervisor is the key to enabling virtualization. It manages the sharing of physical resources into virtual machines. Each virtual machine runs its guest operating system. They are less agile and have lower portability than containers.


It sits on the top of a physical server and its host operating system. They share a common operating system that requires care and feeding for bug fixes and patches. They are more agile and have higher portability than virtual machines.

Let’s see the difference between Virtual machines and Containers.

SNo. Virtual Machines(VM) Containers
1 VM is a piece of software that allows you to install other software inside of it so you control it virtually as opposed to installing the software directly on the computer. While a container is software that allows different functionalities of an application independently.
2. Applications running on a VM system, or hypervisor, can run different OS. While applications running in a container environment share a single OS.
3. VM virtualizes the computer system, meaning its hardware. While containers virtualize the operating system, or the software only.
4. VM size is very large, generally in gigabytes. While the size of the container is very light, generally a few hundred megabytes, though it may vary as per use.
5. VM takes longer to run than containers, the exact time depending on the underlying hardware. While containers take far less time to run.
6. VM uses a lot of system memory. While containers require very less memory.
7. VM is more secure, as the underlying hardware isn’t shared between processes. While containers are less secure, as the virtualization is software-based, and memory is shared.
8. VMs are useful when we require all of the OS resources to run various applications. While containers are useful when we are required to maximize the running applications using minimal servers.
9. Examples of Type 1 hypervisors are KVM, Xen, and VMware. Virtualbox is a Type 2 hypervisor Examples of containers are RancherOS, PhotonOS, and Containers by Docker.

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