WebAssembly vs Linux Container




Linux container

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A container emulates a private operating system.

A WebAssembly instance emulates a process.

⚊ Taylor McMullen, CTO, Fastly

Several MBs Disk Footprint Several GBs
milliseconds Startup Performance seconds
AOT is within 10% of native client Runtime Performance 10% to 20% loss to native client
Host OS, System and Apps
Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, RTOS Host OS Linux, Mac OS X, Windows
Yes Microkernel as host No
Yes Embedded or real-time OS as host No
C, Rust, GO, Python, Java etc. Embed in host applications Not embeddable at language SDK level
Access via imported functions from shared libraries Access host OS resources Must be supported by Docker itself
Through host functions in shared libraries in the host OS GPU, TPU, and specialized hardware Specialized Docker version
In progress Runs in a secure enclave No
Widely used as a runtime for both node software and smart contracts Blockchain N/A
Yes Runs in web browser No
Guest Apps
High Probability NOT portable across CPUs
C/C++, Rust, Swift, AssemblyScript, TinyGO, Grain, JavaScript Requires additional developer tools Just standard toolchain on Linux
No, but it supports async apps -- same as node.js Multi-thread apps Yes
Yes Single app binary on both client and server No
Possible Formal verification Very hard
N/A Guest OS Linux, Mac OS X, Windows
Safety, Security and Isolation
cgroupfs, systemd, statically allocated memory, gas fees Resource isolation and allocation cgroupfs, systemd
Capability-based security Security Depends on the host OS's user privilege
Sandbox with protected memory Safety Could be breached
Signed modules Software supplychain security
Management and Orchestration
Bindle, OCI repo (eg. Docker Hub) Artifact repos OCI repo (eg. Docker Hub)
Yes Works with kubernetes Yes
Yes Managed by container tools Yes
W3C and OCI Standards OCI
WasmEdge, wasmtime, WAMR, wasmi, wasm3 Implementations Docker, containerd, CRI-O

WebAssembly on the server is the future of computing


Solomon Hykes

If WASM+WASI existed in 2008, we wouldn't have needed to created Docker. That's how important it is. Webassembly on the server is the future of computing. A standardized system interface was the missing link. Let's hope WASI is up to the task!

WebAssembly will run side by side with Docker


Solomon Hykes

"So will wasm replace Docker?" No, but imagine a future where Docker runs linux containers, windows containers and wasm containers side by side. Over time wasm might become the most popular container type. Docker will love them all equally, and run it all :)