When the rather new technology of cloud computing was introduced to the general public, most cloud architectures relied on the use of numerous different virtual machines to maintain a sufficient amount of computational power. The drawback to this methodology, however, is the fact that most of these virtual machines are implemented to run just a few programs. In fact, some of them are even used to execute a single application over the cloud. Virtual containers, which are meant to eliminate the need for virtual hardware, solve this issue through a virtualization schema of their own.
As mentioned, hardware virtualization is a means of replicating or imitating a physical hardware setup through the use of advanced computer software. While this is a sound idea in theory, the problem really presents itself when you consider the amount of system memory, hard drive space and CPU power that is relied upon to mimic this hardware. Pair that with the fact that the typical virtual machine is really only needed to use one or two applications, and the total amount of resources used simply isn't worth it.
Although virtual containers share the same basic theory as virtual machines, containers are setup in a way that is far quicker and vastly more efficient when compared to hardware virtualization. Instead of imitating an entire operating system just to run a single application, virtual containers allow you to run numerous applications without having to switch between your virtual machinery.
Not only does this free up much needed memory, hard drive space and CPU processing power within your cloud server, but it also eliminates the need and wait times associated with booting up separate virtual machines. Now, through the use of virtual containers, a system administrator does not have to wait through the entire boot process associated with virtual machines. Instead, they simply load up the virtual container needed in order to run the application.
Another benefit of virtual containers is the fact that you can use multiple containers simultaneously, which lets you take advantage of a greater number of applications when compared to virtual machines. Moreover, you will not have to upgrade any of the hardware that you already have, as virtual containers are capable of running on the exact same hardware as your virtual machinery.
The Future of Cloud Computing
Infrastructure-as-a-service, which is a methodology used by several cloud service providers, is expected to help streamline the future of cloud computing. In fact, many cloud service providers, including dotCloud, Heroku and CloudFoundry, already utilize virtual containers as an efficient and cost-effective alternative to virtual machines.
Finally, while containers are primarily used in Linux-based cloud servers, the technology is fully expected to catch on with other operating systems. In fact, some of the industry's most prominent cloud providers are already embracing virtual containers. Projects such as OpenVZ, Heroku Dyno, Docker, Ixc and Google Imctfy already make use of virtual containers to streamline cloud operations, ensure access to applications running over the cloud architecture and to simplify the entire cloud structure for those who are new to the technology of cloud computing.
Virtual Containers and Their Effect on Cloud Computing
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