Kubernetes vs. Virtual Machines: Understanding the Differences
Learn the key differences between Kubernetes and virtual machines (VMs), and the different use cases for each solution.
Jun 08, 2023 • 4 Minute Read
As more organizations move to the cloud, the need for efficient deployment and management of applications has become critical. Kubernetes has emerged as the preferred platform for deploying and managing cloud-native applications (and was listed as one of the top skills for technologists to know in 2023). But how does Kubernetes differ from a traditional virtual machine (VM) environment?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between Kubernetes and VMs, and how each platform is suited for different use cases.
What is Kubernetes? A quick overview
Kubernetes, also known as K8s, is an open-source container orchestration platform that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. With Kubernetes, developers can focus on writing code, while the platform handles the details of deploying and managing the application.
Kubernetes is designed to be cloud-native, meaning that it can run on any public or private cloud platform, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
To learn more about Kubernetes in general, check out this article: What is Kubernetes, and why should I learn it?
What is a Virtual Machine?
A virtual machine (VM) is a software emulation of a physical computer that can run its own operating system and applications. In a VM environment, a hypervisor is used to create and manage virtual machines. Each virtual machine runs its own operating system and applications, completely isolated from other virtual machines running on the same physical server.
Kubernetes vs VMs: What’s the difference?
While Kubernetes and VMs share some similarities, there are some fundamental differences between the two platforms.
1. Kubernetes is designed for deploying and managing containerized applications, not the whole OS
With Kubernetes, developers can define the desired state of their application, and the platform will automatically handle the deployment and scaling of the application. Kubernetes also provides built-in load balancing capabilities, making it easy to distribute traffic across multiple instances of an application.
In contrast, VMs are designed to run entire operating systems and applications, rather than just containers. This means that deploying and managing applications in a VM environment can be more complex, as each VM must be manually provisioned and configured. VMs do provide greater flexibility in terms of operating system and application compatibility, but they require more manual management and maintenance.
2. Kubernetes uses fewer resources than a VM
In a VM environment, each virtual machine runs its own operating system. This provides complete isolation between virtual machines, but it can also lead to resource inefficiencies. Since each operating system requires its own set of resources, running multiple virtual machines can be resource intensive.
Kubernetes, on the other hand, is designed to run containerized applications. Containers share the host operating system, which means that multiple containers can run on the same host, using fewer resources than would be required by VMs.
3. Kubernetes can automatically scale apps based on demand, no manual provisioning
One of the primary benefits of Kubernetes is its ability to automatically scale applications based on demand. With Kubernetes, developers can define the desired state of their application, and the platform will automatically handle scaling the application up or down as needed with a simple command.
In a VM environment, scaling can be more complex. Each virtual machine must be manually provisioned, and scaling requires additional resources to be allocated to each virtual machine.
4. Kubernetes is Cloud Native, VMs are not
Kubernetes is designed to be cloud-native, meaning that it can run on any public cloud platform. This makes it easy to deploy and manage applications across different cloud providers, without having to worry about compatibility issues.
In contrast, VMs are not specifically designed for cloud-native environments. While they can be used in the cloud, they may require additional configuration and management to ensure compatibility across different cloud providers.
Also, because Kubernetes is designed specifically for running containerized applications, it is better suited for modern, cloud-native applications than a VM.
Kubernetes and virtual machines are two different platforms that are suited for different use cases.
- Kubernetes is designed specifically for deploying and managing containerized applications, while virtual machines are designed for running entire operating systems and applications.
- Kubernetes is cloud-native and provides automatic scaling, load balancing, and efficient resource usage, making it well-suited for modern, cloud-native applications. Virtual machines provide greater flexibility in terms of operating system and application compatibility, but require more manual management and maintenance.
Ultimately, the choice between Kubernetes and virtual machines will depend on the specific needs and requirements of the application being deployed.
How can I learn more about Kubernetes?
If you want to learn more about Kubernetes, there are several courses available that can take you from being a complete beginner to getting Kubernetes certified. Here are some we highly recommend: