LXC vs KVM | What is the difference?

When choosing a new cloud hosting provider, it’s always important to understand the architecture you’ll be working with — The main differentiation being LXC vs KVM. What do they mean and what are the important distinctions between each?

KVM vs LXC

LXC vs KVM: The Main Distinction

Let us begin by defining each term and the overarching difference between LXC vs KVM.

LXC stands for Linux Containers and KVM is an acronym for Kernel-Based Virtual Machine. The main difference here is that virtual machines require their own kernel instance to run while containers share the same kernel. However, each container still acts as its own separate environment with their own respective file systems.

In other words, containers are virtualization at operating-system-level whereas VMs are virtualization at the hardware level.

The advantages to LXC

So if LXC is easier to manage and more lightweight, does that make it better than a KVM system? Well, not entirely. And like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Let’s start with LXC.

LXC Logo

One main advantage to LXC is that it is easier to maintain and has very little overhead on deployment compared to a virtual machine. This allows for a much more lightweight cloud environment with LXC.

Because of this, containers also have a faster startup and stop speed, making them much more efficient overall. Additionally, a significant number of containers can be deployed on the host system, where VMs are heavier on resources.

Are there any disadvantages of containers?

The main drawback with containers lies within the fact that they are deployed from a single host. Because of this, compatibility issues may arise with certain software or package managers which require KVM (or docker) to run.

The benefits and drawbacks of KVM

As previously discussed, KVM is hardware-level virtualization with its own kernel instance. This allows the user to boot their own operating system of choice with no underlying or base OS. And since each server is its own instance, they can be migrated without having to reboot.

Kernel-Based Virtual Machine

On the downside, since each VM runs its own kernel instance, this makes them much more resource-intensive. And in certain cases, using a VM may also require a more complex setup process compared to its container counterpart. Ultimately, KVM is better suited for those with more system administration experience.

LXC vs KVM – Which should I choose?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question and truly comes down to what you plan on doing with your cloud server. Put together a list of what it is you need to install and the various dependencies.

Does some of the software you need require its own kernel instance? If so, then KVM will be the way to go. Otherwise, if everything you’ve done is compatible on a container-based architecture, this will provide a much more lightweight and efficient system when it comes to LXC vs KVM.

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