Virtualization is used in data center and cloud environments to decouple applications from the hardware they run on. Hardware virtualization and operating system level virtualization are two prominent technologies that enable this. Containers, which use OS virtualization, have recently surged in interest and deployment. In this paper, we study the differences between the two virtualization technologies. We compare containers and virtual machines in large data center environments along the dimensions of performance, manageability and software development.

We evaluate the performance differences caused by the different virtualization technologies in data center environments where multiple applications are running on the same servers (multi-tenancy). Our results show that co-located applications can cause performance interference, and the degree of interference is higher in the case of containers for certain types of workloads. We also evaluate differences in the management frameworks which control deployment and orchestration of containers and VMs. We show how the different capabilities exposed by the two virtualization technologies can affect the management and development of applications. Lastly, we evaluate novel approaches which combine hardware and OS virtualization.


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 author = {Sharma, Prateek and Chaufournier, Lucas and Shenoy, Prashant and Tay, Y. C.},
 title = {Containers and Virtual Machines at Scale: A Comparative Study},
 booktitle = {Proceedings of the 17th International Middleware Conference},
 series = {Middleware '16},
 year = {2016},
 isbn = {978-1-4503-4300-8},
 location = {Trento, Italy},
 pages = {1:1--1:13},
 articleno = {1},
 numpages = {13},
 url = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2988336.2988337},
 doi = {10.1145/2988336.2988337},
 acmid = {2988337},
 publisher = {ACM},
 address = {New York, NY, USA},