What is the difference between container and VM?

The main difference between Container and VM is that the container provides virtualization at the operating system level while the virtual machine, or virtual machine , provides virtualization at the hardware level.

Virtualization is the process of creating a virtual operating system, server, storage device, or network resource. Containers and virtual machines are two virtualization technologies. We can use both to increase flexibility, minimize resource requirements, and maximize functionality.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is VM
     – Definition, Functionality, Characteristics.
2. What is container
     – Definition, Functionality, Characteristics.
3. What is the difference between container and VM?
     – Comparison of key differences

Key terms

Container, Process Virtual Machine, System Virtual Machine, VM, Virtualization

what is VM

VM refers to virtual machine . It is an emulation of a computer system. Also, a virtual machine is based on computer architecture and provides the functionality of a physical computer. It includes specialized hardware, software, or a combination. A hypervisor or virtual machine monitor is used to create and run virtual machines.

Figure 1: Virtualization

There are two types of virtual machines as system virtual machines and process virtual machines. A virtual system machine Provides a substitute for a real machine. Additionally, it provides the functionality required to run a full operating system. A process virtual machine , on the other hand, runs computer programs in a platform-independent environment. Also, many IP departments use virtual machines as they reduce cost and improve efficiency.

What is a container

A container is a software package that consists of everything to run applications. Unlike a virtual machine, which virtualizes the underlying computer, a container virtualizes the operating system. It’s on top of a physical server, and its host operating system is usually Windows or Linux. Each container shares the operating system kernel, binaries, and libraries. Also, it is only possible to read the shared components in a container.

Figure 2: Docker Container

Sharing operating system resources, such as libraries, minimizes the need to generate operating system code. Therefore, a server can run multiple workloads with a single OS installation. On the other hand, a container is megabytes in size. A minimal amount of time is needed to get started. In addition, it allows you to create a portable operating environment for development, testing, and deployment. Also, multiple containers can run side by side on the same container platform.

Difference between container and VM


A container is a lightweight alternative to full machine virtualization that involves encapsulating an application with its own operating environment. A virtual machine (VM) is an operating system (OS) or application environment that is installed on software, which mimics dedicated hardware.


Also, a container is lightweight, while a virtual machine is heavyweight.


Container provides virtualization of the operating system, while VM provides virtualization at the hardware level. This is the basic difference between container and VM.

Operating system

OS is a big difference between container and VM. All containers share the host operating system, but each virtual machine runs on its own operating system.

memory space

Also, the virtual machine requires more memory space than a container.

Start time

Also, the startup time of a container is in milliseconds. The boot time of a virtual machine is in minutes.


Furthermore, LXC, LXD, CGManager, and Docker are some examples for container providers, while VMware vSphere, Virtual Box, and Hyper-V are some examples for virtual machine providers.


Container reduces IP management resources, reduces and simplifies security updates, requires minimal code to port, migrate, and upload workloads. VM provides all available OS resources for applications, established management, and security tools. This is another difference between container and VM. 


Furthermore, security also contributes to the difference between container and virtual machine. Containers provide isolation at the process level, which is less secure. Virtual machines, however, are completely isolated and more secure.


In short, the main difference between container and virtual machine is that a container provides virtualization at the operating system level while a virtual machine provides virtualization at the hardware level. Also, most of the companies use these technologies as they reduce cost and improve performance.


1. “Virtual machine”. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, October 11, 2018, Available here.
2. “Container”. Container definition, available here.

Courtesy image:

1. “Hardware vs Hardware Virtualization” By RicoRico – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “docker” By Linux Images (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Back to top button