Contain Yourself! The VM Is Evolving

Virtual Machines

The first step was the move to virtualization. The trouble with physical servers is that they are expensive to run and maintain. Even if you run a busy company, chances are that most of your servers are not very busy, most of the time. So although you might have 10 boxes (email, web, documents, backups, intranet, customer database and so on) it was not uncommon for CPU usage on those servers to remain at less than 10% for most of the day. Even less at night. It’s inefficient and costly.

Cloud Computing

And so to the second evolution, namely the move to the cloud. Companies stopped hosting their own physical servers in their own physical data centers and began renting VMs from providers such as Alibaba Cloud. You can create a new virtual server on Alibaba Cloud in just five minutes for less than $5, and delete it just as quickly if you no longer need it. Financing servers can now be done on expenses via an employee’s credit card rather than being a major CapEx project.


And so to the third evolution. It’s called container technology and the word you’ll hear most often is Docker.

Making the Move to Containers

Creating a container is actually very easy because most of the hard work has already been done by the community and is available as a free download from the Docker website. You can build on those ready-made containers with minimal effort. For example, to create a simple Hello World project, it takes a 3-line script file to download a base container image of Apache and PHP, incorporate your own PHP script that displays the message, and then output a revised image. A further single Docker command launches that container image, which runs the web server and displays the message.

The Future of Virtual Machines

So have VMs had their day? Certainly not. They are here to stay as a way of efficiently running multiple instances of complete operating systems on a single box either in your own data center or someone else’s. But if many of your virtualized servers currently run the same operating system, and you’re fed up with endlessly having to patch and update them all, containers could well be the way to go.



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Alibaba Cloud

Alibaba Cloud

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