In the digital business world, virtual machines, or "VM's" have been all the rage for several years now. These simple solutions made a lot of sense for organisations around the world. After all, instead of making a room filled with servers, all you needed to do was deploy all the systems you needed using one piece of hardware.
Virtual machines could save companies money, perform perfectly, and make failover simpler too. After all, if a problem happens with your server, all you need to do is tap into a recent snapshot to get back into action. So, what's the deal with containers? Though these ideas aren't all that new, they've recently enjoyed a lot of spotlight in the IT world. Containers have garnered attention as a simple and cost-effective way for companies to expand their offerings, through a portable, scalable strategy.
The question is when it comes to your organisation, should you be using containers or virtual machines? While the answer to this question will depend on a lot of personal factors, there are a few points you can consider if you want to make your decision as easy as possible.
The Benefits of Using Virtual Machines
A lot of companies invest in and use virtual machines on a consistent basis. They make testing new technology and operating systems simple because you need to do is create a new VM when you want to establish something new. Virtual machines are simple, straightforward, and great for almost any type of business. You don't have to do much to get the system up and running, and you can create snapshots that allow you to roll back to other versions of your software too.
Virtual machines also give developers the opportunity to pile a number of applications onto one machine. This means that you could create an Ubuntu server using a virtual machine, while giving that server as much as possible in the way of resources, before installing all the services you need for success. Should you need to add additional services to the system at a later date, all you'll need to do is install the service into the running VM and you'll be ready to go.
With the right virtual machine system, it's possible for developers to create a contiguous platform that delivers a complete range of services they need. Virtual machines certainly make a lot of sense when you've got a lot of host server power to use. What's more, you'll know that at any moment you can always spin up a snapshot if something goes wrong.
The Benefits of Using Containers
Containers are by far the most popular option on the playground in the development world right now. If you can name a tech company, then there's a good chance that company is already investing in some kind of container, from Google to IBM and Microsoft. Of course, just because containers have become some of the most popular solutions out there, doesn't necessarily mean that virtual machines are no longer relevant.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences to think about is that virtual machines take up a great deal of any company's resources. Each virtual machine can run a full copy of an operating system, as well as a copy of all the hardware that the operating system needs in order to run. Although this is very useful for many companies, it also means that VMs use a great deal of RAM to keep everything running smoothly.
With containers, because you're deploying single services, instead of a full-blown server environment, the container doesn't necessarily impose all the same hardware demands as a virtual machine. This means that deploying multiple servers through containers wouldn't require you to have anywhere near as much hardware as a virtual machine.
Hardware requirements aren't the only benefit to consider with containers too. Thanks to things like "swarm mode" in the docker engine, you can create a cluster of engines that are then managed as a single virtual system. This adds more availability and failover into the mix, which means that you can deploy systems more easily at scale.
Which Option is Right for You
Ultimately, the easiest way to make a decision about whether you should be using containers or virtual machines is to ask yourself whether you need a full platform capable of housing various services at once. If so, then you should go with a virtual machine. On the other hand, if you need a single service which can be deployed and clustered at scale, then you should opt for a container.