Containerization is one of the alternatives to whole-machine virtualization. It utilizes several isolated services on one platform; on the other hand, Virtualization is the process of designing a version of anything virtual in nature. 

Through this blog, you will get to understand the concept of Containerization and Virtualization. Both deploy various isolated services on the same platform.

But, the way both technologies function is different. Let’s understand both concepts before diving into the differences between them.

1. What is Virtualization?

2. What is Containerization?

3. Differences Between Containerization and Virtualization

Let’s dive in!

Containerization Vs Virtualization

Presently, containers and virtual machines (VMs) are two of the top approaches in the industry. In terms of reducing overhead costs, enhancing scalability, and standardizing software deployments across multiple machines, there is nothing more suitable than these platforms.

Both these software technologies - containerization and virtualization creates self-contained virtual packages. That can help IT in becoming more agile and responsive to meet increasing business demands. 

Beyond that similarity, they both differ in various other aspects such as operations, characteristics and use cases. 

So, to distinguish between containerization and virtualization, we’ve rounded up the basics on each.

1. What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is the technical process that can create virtual resources. It is a simulation of physical hardware such as (CPU cores, memory, disk) and represent it as a separate machine. Cloud computing is the most common use of virtualization. It can help in running several VMs on a computer.

This cloud-based technology saves time, money, and storage space while offering all cloud computing powers. These Virtual machines are separate systems but they share the same physical IT infrastructure that is managed by the hypervisor. Virtualization is beneficial for both large and small businesses.

Some of the advantages of virtualization are:

  - Availability of all OS resources for apps

  - Well-established functionality

  - Better security tools and controls

  - Robust management tools

  - Cost savings and high efficiency

  - Centralized workload without overheads

2. What is Containerization?

When code is developed in a specific computing environment and ported to a different environment, there is a high possibility of the code throwing bugs and errors due to missing dependencies, libraries, or any configuration setting files.

Containerization comes to rescue the application from such a situation. Containerization is the process of packaging application code along with the libraries, configuration files, and dependencies required for the application to run cross-platform.

In this approach, the code is written once and capable of executing anywhere and making the application highly portable. The main example of a containerization platform is Docker.

Some of the advantages of containerization are:

  - Less occupancy of IT management resources

  - Smaller size needs

  - Faster spin-ups and simplified security updates

  - Less code to transfer, migrate, or upload workloads

3. Differences Between Containerization and Virtualization

Virtualization and Containerization are complementing each other very often. Containerization is like an alternative or a companion to virtualization.

Although both systems - virtual machines and containers are meant to simulate the environments required by individual applications, they work differently. 

Here are few parameters that differentiate these two technologies:

1. Simulation Environment

Containers are an abstraction of the application layer whereas VMs is a simulation of the physical/ hardware layer. Simply stated, each container simulates the various software application working while virtual machines, replicate the functioning of a physical machine.

For example, to simulate the working of many servers, virtualization technology can use one physical server only.

The VMs use a single hardware infrastructure, even then they have their own copy of the OS and related files, applications, etc.

2. Cost of Implementation

The implementation cost of virtualization is comparatively high than containerization. 

3. Number of Applications That The System Can Host

A single container can work with a single application on the contrary VM can host several applications at a time. The blend of these applications might change over time.

It happens because containers are capable of capsulizing the resources required for one application, while virtual machines simulate the entire physical system and the operating system.

4. Guest Compatibility    

Virtualization is compatible with almost all types of operating systems inside a virtual machine, whereas the compatibility of containerization is only with a similar version of operating system as the host

5. Computing Resources Required

Since containers are designed to run one application as they need fewer resources to run as compared to virtual machines. Thus, in the same amount of resources for computing, more containers can run as compared to VMs.

6. Loading Time

Compare to virtual machines the loading time of containers is less. The reason is, that containers abstract an application code along with the required libraries and dependencies needed to run it, they are generally smaller in size as compared to virtual machines.

On the other hand, virtual machines, simulate the complete operating environment and hence take more time to load.

7. Networking    

In terms of networking, Virtualization is conducted via virtual network adapters (VNA). On contrary, containerization uses an isolated view of a VNA for lightweight virtualization

8. Security

Virtual machines are more secure as it provides complete isolation for all the applications it hosts. On contrary, containers are less secure as it provides only process-level isolation.

9. Load Balancing    

For load balancing, virtualization runs virtual machines on other servers in a failover cluster, whereas  Containerization handles load balancing by automatically starting and stopping containers on cluster nodes through an orchestrator.

10. Persistent Storage    

Virtualization uses a virtual hard disk (VHD) for single VM local storage or a server message block (SMB) for shared storage on multiple servers. On contrary, containerization uses local disks for local storage for a single node and SMB for shared storage on multiple servers or nodes


Thus, by considering all the above differences, it is quite clear to say that containers and VMs can’t necessarily be used interchangeably.

Both technologies have their benefits and specific scenarios. Therefore, it is dependent on the user as to which system is appropriate for them, and then, they decide which platform they need to use - Containerization or Virtualization.