Container Virtualization

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Can you identify the differences between container virtualization and hypervisor-based virtualization?

In reality, container-based virtualization is rarely used at the corporate level. However, CompTIA frequently delves into the obscure so it’s worth knowing the difference if you’re planning to take the Security+ exam. As an example, can you answer this question?

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. What type of virtualization allows an operating system kernel to run multiple isolated instances of a guest virtual machine?

A. Container virtualization
B. Sandboxing virtualization
C. Full virtualization
D. Hypervisor virtualization

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? Answer and explanation at end of this post.


Hypervisor-based Virtualization

Traditional virtualization models used within the corporate environment use hypervisor virtualization (such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V or VMware’s vSphere).  The following graphic shows a single host system hosting three guest virtual machines (VMs) using a traditional hypervisor model.

Container virtualization vs hypervisor

Notice that each guest system includes its own operating system kernel and desired applications. In essence, each guest VM operates as an independent system.

What is a Kernel?

Don’t let the term kernel throw you. Generically, a kernel is just the central part or most important part of something. When referring to a computer, the kernel is the central part of the operating system.

Container Virtualization

Container virtualization (also called operating system virtualization) uses containers to run an operating system as a separate application within the host. Compare the following graphic to the previous one.

Container virtualization

Notice that while the containers are isolated from each other, they do not include their own kernel or function as full systems. Instead, they use elements of the host operating system kernel to run the service or app within the container.

Each container can run an application or service, but it doesn’t include a separate operating system. Instead, it uses the elements of the host operating system kernel necessary to run.

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Benefits of Container Virtualization

Because container virtualization uses fewer resources, it can be much more efficient than a full virtual machine running through a hypervisor. Because of this, some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use containers for their customers that need specific applications or services.

A limitation is that containers can only run the operating system of the host. In contrast, systems using a hypervisor typically support VMs running several different operating systems.

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Q. What type of virtualization allows a computer’s operating system kernel to run multiple isolated instances of a guest virtual machine?

A. Container virtualization
B. Hypervisor  virtualization
C. Full virtualization
D. Jailbreaking virtualization

Answer is A. Container-based virtualization (also called operating system virtualization) uses the same kernel of the host computer. It is often used to run isolated applications or services within a virtual environment.

Virtual machines (VMs) using hypervisor virtualization or full virtualization have their own kernels. They do not use the computer’s operating system kernel.

While jails are used as a specific type of container virtualization, jailbreaking is completely different. Jailbreaking refers to the process of removing software restrictions from mobile devices and is primarily associated with Apple iOS systems.

See Chapter 5 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on virtualization.

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