Virtualization vs Containerization – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons)

Virtualization vs Containerization – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). Virtualization and containerization are two important concepts in app modernization, microservices and anything that requires a modern way of building applications. These two technologies are not necessarily new, but they have become increasingly popular due to technological advancements. 

Both virtualization and containerization help businesses improve their scalability and reduce the costs of building applications. Both technologies operate very differently and have separate uses. However, both were developed to provide individual virtual packages.

Aside from that, virtualization and containerization differ in their functionality, characteristics and deployment method. These concepts sound pretty similar and can confuse the common eye.

Suppose you’ve been searching for the best way to distinguish between virtualization and containerization. In that case, this article provides a brief overview of each technology’s basics and outlines some common differences.

Virtualization vs Containerization – What’s the Difference?

What is Virtualization?

Mainly virtualization refers to creating a virtual instance of something, either an operating system, storage device, or network connection. Also virtualization usually involves running multiple operating systems on a single machine. Applications running in a virtual environment operate the same way they would if installed as a primary resource. 

What is a Hypervisor?

It is impossible to run a virtual machine without a hypervisor. A hypervisor is the software or computer program that allows the resources of a CPU and other physical hardware like RAM and storage to be shared among multiple OS or programs. 

The hypervisor is responsible for allocating required resources to each program to ensure they operate smoothly. Hypervisors are grouped into several categories, but they serve the same purpose of creating virtual instances of applications.  

What is Containerization?

Just as shipping containers are used to store products of different kinds. Software containers are used to run a single isolated software along with its component libraries. Unlike virtualization, which simulates the entire hardware of the host, containerization simulates only the operating system.

You can have multiple containers sharing the kernel of the host machine. Also containers are usually lightweight applications. This allows you to deploy multiple containers on a single server without having to dedicate an entire server for running a single application.

Consequently containerization divides the host operating system into separate bits utilized by each container. The lightweight nature of containers enables them to run with less server space compared to virtual machines.

Major Differences of virtualization vs containerization

Similarly virtualization and containerization are both cloud computing technologies. They operate on the same principle of host resource utilization, but they have a few differences that set them apart.

Operating System


Here the virtualization utilizes the complete operating system of the host, including the kernel. This is because virtual machines require more resources like RAM and CPU.


Meanwhile, containerization only has read only access to the operating system, so it utilizes only the services it needs to function.



To deploy virtual machines, you need hypervisor software.


Bu the containerization allows individual containers to be deployed using Docker and Kubernetes.

Isolation Level


When running a virtual machine, it is completely isolated from the host operating system and any secondary virtual machine running on the host.


What containerization provides is a mid level isolation from the host OS.  But doesn’t provide a strong security boundary between the containers and the host.

Guest Compatibility


On one hand virtualization allows you to run multiple versions and types of operating systems simultaneously inside the virtual machine.


Contrary to containers, you can only run the same operating system installed on the host machine.



When you install hypervisor software, it creates several virtual network adapters to facilitate the connection between the host and the virtual machine.


However in containerization, containers use an isolated view of a network adapter.



Storage concerning where virtual machines utilize a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) when installed on a host. This VHD can be used to store and share storage between multiple servers.


Opposite the containers utilize the storage of the local machine for a single node to share storage between servers.

Pros and Cons of Virtualization


1. Security

Security is one of the most notable advantages of virtual machines over containers. Virtual machines are single layer machines. Once you install the OS image or copy it, you can run it securely on the local machine without affecting the host or other virtual machines.

However, the multi layer feature of container applications poses more security risks.  The more machines you have, the higher the vulnerability risk. Really containers do require multi level security to cope with the dynamic nature of the applications.

In virtual machines, you only need to ensure the image you are copying is secure and you can install it on the host. However, you must secure the individual containers, registries and the host operating system when working with containers.

2. Can Run Multiple OS

Here with virtualization it allows you to run multiple OS on a single server or machine. Unlike containers that only support a single OS, virtual machines can run almost any kind of OS using the same hardware resources provided by the host.

This feature is very important for developers who prefer testing their code across multiple platforms to determine the overall performance of their applications in different operating systems.

3. Can Run Intensive Tasks

Due to the amount of hardware resources utilized by virtual machines, resource intensive tasks like server migration can be done easily using virtual machines.

Running resource intensive tasks on containers is not impossible. The cost of managing such an operation is significantly higher than using a virtual machine.


1. Not Portable

Well the virtual machines contain large chunks of gigabytes. An average virtual machine takes up much storage compared to lightweight containers. This makes it harder to transfer data within the application environment.

2. Harder to Maintain

If you run multiple operating systems in a virtual machine, you need to manage them individually. Tasks like system updates can be time consuming and will become exhausting if you have to maintain each OS independently. However, containers operate a single OS; management is easier than virtual machines. 

What are pluses and minuses of containerization? Follow until the end the article about Virtualization vs Containerization – What’s the Difference?

Pros and Cons of Containerization

Containers compete with virtual machines in almost all aspects; let’s see some of the advantages and disadvantages of using containers:


1. Speed

Firstly here containers are very lightweight compared to most virtual machines. They utilize only the host OS leaving aside physical hardware normally used by virtual machines. More with containers is that they can be created using a master image and quickly deployed to any server on the cloud.

Due to their lightweight feature, servers that use containers are significantly faster and speed up the boot up time because containers have no OS.

2. Portability

Unlike virtual machines tied to the host operating system during installation, containers create an executable program independent of the host machine, allowing it to run natively across any platform in the cloud.

Containers utilize micro-services and their dependencies in small-sized packages, facilitating easy movement around the application environment (private or public cloud infrastructure).

3. Efficiency

Interestingly containers use fewer resources than virtual machines. They don’t utilize the RAM, CPU, or storage, allowing them to run at maximum capacity with the lowest resources. So require less start up time, allowing multiple containers to run as a single virtual machine.

4. Scalability

Unlike a virtual machine, container applications can push more workload with fewer resources. Additionally, developers can test new updates, features and security in new applications without affecting the original applications.

Components of container  like Docker and Kubernetes automate most container management processes like scaling and network deployment. This allows applications to automatically scale up or down whenever necessary.


1.Lacks Adequate Security Measures

Isolation of virtual machines happens when they isolate themselves from the entire operating system of the host. This allows them to stay secure irrespective of the state of the host machine.

However, containers provide partial isolation from the host. This leads to weaker security boundaries compared to virtual machines.

2. Operates only one OS

Running a single operating system might benefit some users. It can be a negative feature if you work with multiple operating systems.

3. Expensive to Implement

Depending on the scale of your project, implementing containers can be very expensive. While containers greatly reduce the overhead costs of developing applications, they require more money to set up.

So Which One Should You Use?

To conclude virtual machines and containers have their specific use cases. Mainly with containers they are developed for efficient management, improved scalability and portability. However, this doesn’t guarantee that implementing containerization in your application environment will be a good idea.

Before implementing either of these technologies, you should look at your application and the requirements needed to operate the application. Mainly containers operate perfectly in the following scenarios:

  • You are developing cloud native applications.
  • Your application is heavy weight and complex.
  • Your development team uses a single operating system.
  • You want to speed up the application development process.

Really the containers are great, but it doesn’t mean virtual machines are inefficient. They are still a very reliable way to store applications securely. Here are a few scenarios where virtualization works well:

  • You need to run multiple operating systems.
  • You prioritize the security of your applications across multiple platforms .
  • You want to test the functionality of your applications across multiple platforms.

Thank you for your time. We are at the end of Virtualization vs Containerization – What’s the Difference? We can conclude.

Virtualization vs Containerization - What's the Difference?  Conclusion

Concluding virtual machines are great for applications that function across multiple platforms. Strictly containers are a much better option when you want to minimize the number of servers across your applications.

Ultimately, virtual machines and containers have their respective place in the IT industry. Your choice ultimately boils down to the requirement of your application. Before implementing containers or virtual machines, ensure they’re the best fit for your application environment. 

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Avatar for Kamso Oguejiofor
Kamso Oguejiofor

Kamso is a mechanical engineer and writer with a strong interest in anything related to technology. He has over 2 years of experience writing on topics like cyber security, network security, and information security. When he’s not studying or writing, he likes to play basketball, work out, and binge watch anime and drama series.

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