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Containers Vs Hypervisor: Which one will lead?

Containers Vs Hypervisor: Which one will lead?
July 27, 2018

Containers have revolutionized the journey of enterprise computing world especially in the era where the large organizations are strategically moving towards the adoption of Hybrid and Multi cloud computing models. The primary driver of this is containerization as it has brought significant changes in virtualization.

Enterprises implementing cloud container technology see substantial opportunity to improve overall IT environment in terms of agility, efficiency, speed, dynamically moving applications, and workloads. Other key drivers for the container market are developer productivity, time to market, and competitive advantages. The momentum behind containers adoption is fast growing. According to 451 research analysis, by 2020 the container market would be worth nearly $3 bn and containers would be beneficial not only for developers and operators’ community but for finance teams as well in terms of lower TCO as compared to traditional hardware virtualization.

According to 451 research analysis, by 2020 the container market would be worth nearly $3 bn.

So, does it mean this is going to be the end of “Hypervisor technologies Virtualization Tax?”

Let’s have a look what is this battle all about and where the curve is heading.

Hypervisor technologies like Hyper-V, vSphere, KVM, and XEN create the VMs by running software on physical hardware. Each VM can run on the same physical machine/hardware; however, they are logically separated from each other. This means if one VM experiences issues like crashing or malware attack it won’t compromise the other VM on the same physical hardware.

VMs consume a large share of system resources and require full operating system (OS) as well as a virtual copy of all hardware that OS needs to run. Thus, VMs measure in several gigabytes in size while containers only in megabytes which in turn make it possible to run more containers on a single server.

VMs don’t provide the same level of portability, flexibility, and speed that containers do for development, testing, and deployment purpose thereby speeding up the development process which, in turn, accelerates time to market (TTM).

Containerization has emerged as a big shift in application architecture and designing. The new version of the application is being deployed from loosely coupled components i.e. microservice architecture which allows the use of container function correctly. Certainly, microservice architecture helps in breaking large deployments into smaller parts but, at the same time, we need to manage a higher number of parts and hence, it requires a heightened level of management capabilities. However, enterprises are still running full platforms on a single system which can effectively run on the virtual machine.

The container is an OS virtualization technology which shares the same kernel space as the host machine so if a kernel is affected it may compromise other containers sharing the same OS resource. However, in the case of virtual machines, host and guest machines have different kernels and are segregated from each other. Hence, security is more prominent in the case of VMs. A container can work with a VM in collaboration to provide an additional layer of isolation and security, if needed. In the last couple of years, a great deal of effort has been devoted to developing software to enhance the security of containers. Docker and other container systems now include a signing infrastructure allowing administrators to sign container images to prevent untrusted containers from being deployed. More specialized container security software has also been developed, for example, Twistlock and Aquasec which offer container security scanning solutions that can notify administrators if container images have vulnerabilities that could be exploited as well as other advanced security features.

A container can work with a VM in collaboration to provide an additional layer of isolation and security.

Indeed, there is a lot of traction, momentum, and noise in the enterprise computing world about container’s adoption but still, it is in the primitive phase. Both containers and virtual machines have their own advantages and limitations. It is always a difficult decision to choose either of them since the decision is based on the features, requirements, and type of architecture required.

In today’s scenario, most of the applications are modernized and designed on microservices architecture which is deployed on public and private cloud for infrastructure requirement and container technology becomes the prominent choice as the deployment platform. However, VMs are still in action as they provide flexibility and compatibility with any OS and in a scenario where the application is tightly coupled in nature.

So, it would be too early to predict which of the two technologies hypervisor or containers will lead? If we refer to the industry’s research pattern and futuristic analysis, containerization will have an edge over hypervisors in upcoming years, but it is just the beginning.