Docker Vs Virtual Machine: Differences You Should Know

Updated on 5 December 2023 6 min Read
Docker Vs Virtual Machine: Differences You Should Know

The 21st-century era has paved the way to think about the virtual world. Where half of the things are moving towards digitization, cloud computing has taken a pledge to contribute to virtualization.

Also, with the rapid growth in technological advancements, it’s obvious that you might get confused.

Yes, Virtual Machines and Docker are the two widely used technologies in software deployment for deploying, monitoring and running applications. VMs consist of virtual machines, whereas Docker is based on container technology. Needless to say, virtualization since the start has been the go-to in software development.

But how about having an economical and scalable alternative, that’s what Docker is. Without pulling it too long, let’s get started! In this article, we will walk you down through the exact differences, Docker Vs Virtual Machines.

But before we move on to the main point, let’s begin with the basics.

What is Docker?

Docker is basically an open-source container technology that’s used for creating, deploying and managing distributed applications. Most DevOps professionals make use of the Docker containers for creating packages for applications that are required to run apps in isolation. It also helps to bind the application and its dependencies inside the container.

What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine is usually called a Hypervisor that basically acts as a physical computer. A virtual machine makes use of the physical resources of the device it is operating. Virtual machines are isolated from the system of the physical device and operate within a sandbox. In simple words, the virtual machine is self-contained.

It makes them perfect for running software and creating backups. Each virtual machine needs its own operating system and then the hardware is virtualized.

Docker Vs VM: Unveiling the Differences Between the Two

Now, we’ll understand the key differences between Docker and Virtual Machine.

Security

Everything comes down when it comes to security. Compared to containers, VMs are more secure. Here the primary factor is, there’s no sharing of operating systems and the host kernel is highly isolated.

Related: Docker Container: What is it and what are its advantages?

Whereas, there are a lot of potential risks and threats with the Docker container. As the containers have a shared host kernel. In Docker containers, resources are shared so the attacker can get access to all the clusters in the containers, even if they get access to a single container.

In VMs, you do not get access to the resources directly, as the hypervisor is there to restrict the usage of resources in the VM.

Operating System Support

Speaking about the VMs, they are heavy as it’s having a guest operating system above the host OS. On the other hand, Docker containers tend to share the hosts operating systems, making them light weight.

Management

From a management point of view, each of these technologies offers a flexible approach towards resource provisioning. However, both of these technologies need to be managed effectively for smooth functioning.

With the Docker container technology, it comes down to managing the security concerns and to make sure that the shared OS does not face any faults.

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And with virtual machines, the complexity comes down to managing virtual resources. Say for example, you require the processing power and bandwidth capacity to support virtual machines, particularly if you are running numerous virtual machines on a single device.

If you do not allocate the necessary resources then the virtual machines are not going to run smoothly.

Highly Portable

Basically, docker containers are easily portable as they do not have particular operating systems. It’s possible that one container can be easily ported to a different OS and get started immediately.

In contrast, virtual machines aren’t very portable, as they have their own OS. This makes them heavy, as the OS cannot be ported to another platform and function well.

Performance

Docker has some crucial benefits due to its structure. A single container can share an application and kernel libraries in such a way that virtual machines cannot. In the same way, Docker needs less computing resources than virtual machines, which inturn helps to deliver a good performance.

Related: Docker vs Kubernetes – Understand the Difference

Why Use Dockers?

There are many reasons why companies use Docker as an alternative to virtual machines. Basically, Docker is more lightweight in terms of resources than virtual machines.

Docker utilizes the Docker engine that resides over the Linux instance rather than the machines used by virtual machines.

Yes, Docker containers have the potential of sustaining over 5 times that of virtual machines. A recent fact is that developers can add their own code for customizing and deploying lean applications.

Why Use Virtual Machines?

Even though virtual machines have gained an edge due to their resource footprint, VMs still remain on the top and are important to organizations. With VMs, you can provision resources more efficiently. They can even reduce the risk of infrastructure failure. Whereas, physical devices are prone to fail over time.

Due to this reason, many administrators have started using virtual machines for disaster recovery and data backups.

Key Comparison: Docker Vs Virtual Machines

ParameterDockerVirtual Machines  
Booting timeIt boots in seconds  VMs takes minutes to boot  
ExecutionRuns on execution engineRuns on hypervisors  
DeploymentDeployment is easy as a single image container is used for the execution  Deployment process is quite large, as different instances are used for execution  
Resource usageLess resource usageMore resource usage
EfficiencyMore memory efficient as as no space is needed to virtualizeLess memory efficient as the complete OS needs to be loaded before starting the service
PlatformIt’s platform independentIt’s hardware independent
StabilityHighly stableLess stable

Docker vs Virtual Machines: Which Ones the Best? 

It’s still the point of debate, whether to go with Docker or Virtual machine. But if you talk about its configuration and advantages, containers are winning against the virtual machines.

No doubt, Docker is nowadays buzzing in the big IT markets, however, virtual machines are no less, as it’s widely used in the production sector. In the end, we leave the choice up to you. Pick the one that best suits your requirements.

The Author

Nehal is an ardent content writer. She's passionate about crafting content that's simple but adds value. Her insatiable interest in writing has allowed her to explore her skills. She is adept and can write for different types of content formats.