IaaS vs. virtualization vs. containerization: Which to choose?

With advancing technologies and surging demand for software solutions and services, organizations worldwide are shifting gears to set up the most convenient and suitable execution environments and infrastructures. Over the last decade, the IT world has been presented with several execution environments, including IaaS, virtualization, containerization. Here is an overview of each of these three major execution environments, their benefits, drawbacks, and when to choose a particular execution environment.


Almost a decade ago, when cloud computing started to go mainstream, organizations struggled to keep up with the growing infrastructural demands, including storage, processing power, and executable abilities. It wasn’t long before companies were skeptical about signing up cloud providers and using SaaS applications over fears of security, privacy, and lack of control. But with IaaS, cloud providers started renting out virtual infrastructure to support businesses, giving them the ability to better control, manage, and access the resources.


Benefits and drawbacks

Infrastructure-as-a-service allows organizations and businesses to set up public, private, or even hybrid cloud paradigms to suit their respective business needs. It helps to reduce the capital expenses needed to set up the infrastructure needed for application or service deployment and support. It provides a great level of access and control over the virtual infrastructure and instances provided. IaaS also helps organizations gain instant recovery from outages and avoid downtime. It also helps them in relocating IT resources, upscaling or downscaling the infrastructure, and staying updated with the latest technologies are few other benefits of using IaaS.

However, IaaS usually forces an organization to undergo a process or workflow change to adapt itself to cloud service providers. Integrations can get a little complex at times, and vendor consolidation serves as a major challenge when dealing with IaaS. Finally, IaaS is heavily reliant on network and broadband availability. This means any network outage or broadband unavailability can lead to an outage of these virtual instances and infrastructure provided by IaaS.


Virtualization is yet another popularly used execution environment that started gaining popularity and has been widely adopted since its inception in the early 2000s. Although it has been over two decades since the enterprise IT world was first made familiar with this technology, it is still used, implemented, and sourced to serve as a very widely used technology to build virtual computing instances and cater as an execution environment. For the uninitiated, virtualization uses software to create an abstraction layer to split the underlying computing hardware and create several virtual instances that behave like independent computers. Moreover, virtualization enables organizations and businesses to efficiently utilize their infrastructure and physical computer hardware to allow a greater return on hardware investment.

IaaS, virtualization, containerization

Benefits and drawbacks

As mentioned above, virtualization allows organizations to make the most out of their hardware and be resource-efficient. Because this technology enables us to replace traditional computers with virtual instances, it is comparably very easy to manage. It is capable of faster resource provisioning due to its software-powered controllability factor. The virtualization concept can be tailored for applications, CPU, GPU, network, storage, data, datacenter, cloud, and many other platforms. On the other hand, virtualization can have a high initial cost of implementation and has limitations concerning what it can do due to its virtual nature. Similar to IaaS, data security is a key area that is always questioned in virtualization as the server is usually managed by third-party providers. Availability and scalability can also be major hurdles depending on the scale of implementation and use.


Containerization is defined as a form of operating system virtualization through which applications are run in isolated user spaces called containers, all using the same shared operating system. A container is essentially a fully packaged and portable computing environment. When containers were first introduced in 2008, virtual machines were the state-of-the-art option for cloud providers and organizations to serve as an execution environment and platform to host the applications and services. Although containerization has been around for a few years and has been evolving to mitigate the traditional drawbacks of VMs, it started gaining momentum in 2017 with the onset of Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that can automatically scale, distribute, and handle containers.

Benefits and drawbacks

Containers allow and support an easy migration option to move the containers from one platform to another. Due to the isolated execution environments that containers provide for applications, they are now very widely used in modern software development, CI/CD pipelining, and maintenance. This also has a very low overhead of maintenance and complexity compared with virtualization due to the limited execution environment it offers for the application execution. Moreover, portability, lack of dependency overheads, and lower deployment costs are other major advantages of containerization.

However, containers lack the ability to provide OS flexibility and cater only to a set of applications that do not need OS-level interactions to function. Containerization, like most other technologies, is still burgeoning and has a learning curve. It is still a challenge for organizations to make the most out of this revolutionary technology.

Virtualization vs. containerization

While virtual machines and containers are both meant to serve as an execution environment, they differ in several ways. One of the primary differences between these two technologies is that containers provide a way to virtualize an entire operating system so that multiple workloads can run on a single OS instance. With virtual machines, on the other hand, the hardware is being virtualized to run multiple OS instances.

Red Hat

IaaS, virtualization, or containerization: Which one to choose?

While IaaS serves as an execution environment just like virtualization and containerization, it represents and fills in several roles and can encapsulate a larger arena of feature sets. Therefore, any organization or SMB looking to leverage the power of cloud computing and looking to save some capital in infrastructural and setup costs can rely on IaaS.

Specifically, if the organization needs to serve multiple clients or has a set of employees who deal with sensitive data or organizational configurations, they can leverage virtualization to generate VMs on the go. This can also help companies consolidate and snapshot the computing instances to allow efficient use of resources along with handling disaster recoveries. VMs can also be deployed to provide secure remote access to users.

On an application level, if a company has a portfolio of applications or IT services that they need to manage, the use of containerization could prove very beneficial. Containers provide speed, agility, and portability making them ideal for streamlining software development. What’s interesting to know here is that an organization can choose to stitch IaaS, virtualization, or containerization together or in pairs to serve the business needs.

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