Containers vs. VMs: What’s the difference?

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Containers vs. VMsIf you’ve only recently started learning about virtualization tools, you might wonder how containers differ from traditional virtual machines (VMs). After all, containers have become a dominant force in cloud-native development. It’s important to understand what they are and what they are not.

Here’s everything you need to know to understand the containers versus VMs debate.

What is a virtual machine?

As the name suggests, a virtual machine is software that emulates a computer system. This enables teams to run what appear to be multiple machines on a single computer. If you need to run software on a different type of hardware or operating system, a VM provides that option without using additional hardware.

What are containers?

Containers are a lighter-weight, more agile way of handling virtualization. Rather than spinning up an entire virtual machine, a container packages together everything needed to run a small piece of software. The container includes all the code, its dependencies and even the operating system itself. This enables applications to run almost anywhere.

The primary difference is that with a VM, the team creates virtual environments where different types of software can run. A container, however, isolates the software from the environment in a way that enables it to run most anywhere.

Why containers?

What do these differences mean? While there are still a great deal of reasons to use VMs, containers provide a level of flexibility that is perfect for the multicloud world. When a development team creates an application, they might not know all the places they’ll need to deploy it. Today, an organization might be running the application on its private cloud, but tomorrow it might need to deploy it on a public cloud from a different provider.

Containerizing applications provides teams the flexibility they need to handle the many software environments of modern IT.

Managing containers for multicloud

Despite the many benefits of containers, however, this solution presents a few challenges of its own. Large enterprise applications can include a massive number of containers. Managing these containers presents some serious issues for teams. How can you have visibility on what is running and where? How do you handle crucial issues such as security and compliance? How do you consistently manage your applications?

Most businesses are turning to open source solutions such as Kubernetes. The majority of containers already run on the Kubernetes platform.

To learn about the enterprise-grade solution for Kubernetes, read about IBM Multicloud Manager.

More information on containers:

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