Docker Containers are not Virtual Machines (VM)

A natural response when first working with Docker containers is to try and frame them in terms of virtual machines. Oftentimes we hear people describe Docker containers as “lightweight VMs”. This is completely understandable, and many people have done the exact same thing when they first started working with Docker. It’s easy to connect those dots as both technologies share some characteristics. Both are designed to provide an isolated environment in which to run an application. Additionally, in both cases that environment is represented as a binary artifact that can be moved between hosts. There may be other similarities, but these are the two biggest. The key is that the underlying architecture is fundamentally different between the containers and virtual machines.

The analogy we use here at Docker is comparing houses (virtual machines) to apartments (Docker containers). Houses (the VMs) are fully self-contained and they possess their own infrastructure – plumbing, heating, electrical, etc. Furthermore, in the vast majority of cases houses are all going to have at a minimum a bedroom,living area, bathroom, and kitchen.

It’s incredibly difficult to ever find a “studio house” – even if one buys the smallest house they can find, they may end up buying more than they need because that’s just how houses are built. Apartments (Docker containers) also offer protection from unwanted guests, but they are built around shared infrastructure. The apartment building (the server running the Docker daemon, otherwise known as a Docker host) offers shared plumbing, heating, electrical, etc. to each apartment. Additionally apartments are offered in several different sizes – from studio to multi-bedroom penthouse. You’re only renting exactly what you need. Docker containers share the underlying resources of the Docker host. Furthermore, developers build a Docker image that includes exactly what they need to run their application: starting with the basics and adding in only what is needed by the application. Virtual machines are built in the opposite direction. They start with a full operating system and, depending on the application, developers may or may not be able to strip out unwanted components.


Can Virtual Machine(VM) run docker?

Answer is YES and explanation is as follows.

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