Virtual Machines vs Containers: Scalability, Portability and Cost Optimisation

June 11th,2020

The Trend Toward Containers

Containers have rapidly grown in popularity as an alternative to virtual machines over the last decade. At a high level, containers bundle up software applications and their dependencies into isolated, portable containers, bringing reliability, scalability and performance.

For businesses looking to decommission on-premises servers or optimise their architecture for the cloud, a containerised approach is an opportunity to reduce cloud expenditure and improve readiness for growth with an agile, flexible architecture.

“Containerization allows our development teams to move fast, deploy software efficiently, and operate at an unprecedented scale” - Google Cloud Platform

Efficiencies of Containerised Architectures

Fundamentally, migrated workloads will consume fewer resources, run faster and offer greater availability through reliability.

In a system based on virtual machines, each service requires its own operating system. However, containers are operating system independent and share them with other containers. Not only does this minimise the size of each container, but by cutting out wasteful operating system instances, more performance can be achieved from the same system resources.

Moreover, this makes each container lightweight and easy to manage. They deliver better start-up times and take up less space on disk, ultimately bringing down costs and the number of resources you need to provision.

If you can identify workloads fit for migration into containerisation technologies, such as Docker, they can perform the same task as a virtual machine.

Building For Scale

In a containerised system, each container is easy to start and stop. A container orchestration platform such as Kubernetes takes advantage of this by automating the management of your containers and matching resources to the actual demand on the system.

Right-sizing your system to the exact requirements not only cuts costs. It also allows you to rapidly adapt to increased loads by creating new containers on the cloud. Your container orchestration system watches over your system, performing the instantiation and installation of new containers as they are needed.

As each container runs independently, there is no single point of failure and containers can be automatically restarted or replaced without interruption.

Taking Advantage of Portability

Once you have containers, you can deploy them virtually anywhere, including any of the top cloud platforms, on-premises servers or even on a combination of them.

With increasing competition within the cloud market, having an architecture that is easy to move to a new platform is invaluable. Docker and Kubernetes are widely supported, open-source and can offer the flexibility you need to respond to new technologies and cost-saving opportunities.

On the Google Anthos platform, for example, you can run your containers on the open cloud and split your architecture over multiple cloud providers, while centralising their management and configuration.

Containerisation With Anthos Container Migration

To ease your switch to containers, the Migrate for Anthos service on the Google Cloud Platform automates the process of converting existing virtual machines, on-premises or on the cloud, into their containerised counterparts.

Migrate for Anthos strips away the labour and complexities of large migrations, allowing for a fast and efficient switch.

Once containers are configured, you can deploy them anywhere, and utilise the cost, scalability and reliability benefits of a containerised architecture.