At one time, virtual machines were the leading option for connecting computers in separate locations for small to medium businesses. These days, virtual containers have enhanced the experience even more, due to their safer and more portable qualities. Containers work for businesses that already use virtualization, as well as those that are new to this technology. Here is deeper insight on how containers work.
Containers vs. Virtual Machines
Virtual workstations and servers allow users to access computing power and software via local networks or the Internet. They have played a pivotal role in the evolution of cloud computing and web hosting. In many aspects, virtualization has been more influential than software, as it has simulated complete desktop experiences over the Internet. While VMs are by no means ancient history, big companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon have led the stampede toward containers.
A big reason why containers have caught on is that they are reliable for achieving seamless software experiences, regardless of the end user’s device. The main drawback, however, is inefficiency when it comes to running small applications, which still require entire desktops. Another major concern is security, which is sometimes overlooked by less experienced IT personnel. According to Red Hat security engineer Daniel Walsh, “containers do not contain,” meaning they raise the risk of the operating system being hacked.
At the same time, virtual machines are known to hog system resources, so you need to decide which strategy is more practical for your operation. Part of your decision depends on how many applications you need to use.
Part of the reason VMs use up resources with less efficiency is that each machine runs a complete copy of the operating system, as well as a virtual copy of all the corresponding hardware. By contrast, containers use a significantly less amount of RAM and CPU. Ultimately, you can install up to three times more applications on one server with containers, making them more practical for testing and development.
Virtual Desktop Improvements
Containers are revolutionary due to their efficiency in housing applications with minimal requirements within a deliverable package. This fact allows them to deliver several containers to multiple users while taking up minimal disk space on the hosting server.
Only a limited selection of software programs can generate and deliver containers, with Docker being the most widely used. Containers had already been around for many years, but prior to the release of Docker, they were complex to manage. As virtualization services grew in popularity, software engineers began to focus on developing more simplistic and lightweight container solutions. Docker containers are able to install file system elements of code, runtime, tools, and libraries, among other system needs on a server.
Docker can be integrated with a wide range of architecture platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. It is commonly used on the Linux operating system, providing an extra layer of abstraction and automation for virtualization. It provides the following virtualization features to the Linux kernel:
One of the main differences between Docker and a virtual machine is that Docker doesn’t need a separate operating system. It allows a server or virtual machine to run multiple containers at the same time. Now, companies can run 10 or more containers simultaneously. While several containers share the same kernel, each container can be configured to use limited CPU or memory.
Virtual machines have helped allow robust software run more smoothly in the cloud. Containers represent a more efficient alternative to VMs, which still serve a useful purpose, although containers do post increased security risks. It’s a matter of deciding between the two technologies based on what is most appropriate for your business.
The key to a quality virtualized experience relies on an Internet connection and a knowledgeable IT consultant to help deploy the equipment. If you’re ready to try virtualization or accessing software in a container environment, contact your IT provider for more information.
About the Author
Robert Naragon is the Founder and President of ITQue, Inc. (pronounced “i-teek”), an IT company based in Campbell that provides IT Support in San Jose. They help small and mid-sized Northern California businesses increase productivity and profitability with customized, flexible hybrid cloud and IT solutions. Prior to ITQue, he was the Founder and President of VistanetIT, Inc., also based in Campbell, a Managed IT Service Provider to small and medium-sized businesses from San Jose to San Francisco.