Full Virtualization vs. a Chroot Environment

Virtualization is extremely popular in the server world right now, and many organizations swear by it. Still, there are some IT people that will look at individual virtualization examples and say to you, “Why don’t you just use a chroot environment.” There are pros and cons to this method, and we will discuss the benefits of virtualization versus chroot.

In general the only scenario where this argument would apply is when you are interested in virtualizing an instance of your current operating system within itself. In other words, you might be running Ubuntu and want to run another instance of Ubuntu within it to create a virtual private server (VPS). In such a scenario, you could either create a virtual machine with KVM, Virtualbox, VMware, or some other technology, or you could create a chroot jail and install another copy of Ubuntu within it.

One of the biggest differences between virtualization and chroot is that virtualization is designed to be simple and easy. Even a desktop user can start up VMware workstation and easily create a virtual machine. On the server, it only takes a few commands. Chroot, on the other hand, is quite complex, and the root user has the potential to do serious damage to it, since in many ways, it is still connected to the main system.

For a very technical operation or sandboxing, a system administrator may have use for chroot. When it comes to actually business use, virtualization makes more sense. You can easily duplicate a virtual machine, transfer it to another physical machine, start and stop it at will, and of course run a variety of operating systems and configurations. To state it plainly, the method you choose largely depends on what you want to accomplish.