Container technique is gaining increasing attention in recent years and has become an alternative to traditional virtual machines. Some of the primary motivations for the enterprise to adopt the container technology include its conveniency to encapsulate and deploy applications, lightweight operations, as well as efficiency and flexibility in resources sharing. However, there still lacks an in-depth and systematic comparison study on how big data applications, such as Spark jobs, perform between a container environment and a virtual machine environment. In this paper, by running various Spark applications with different configurations, we evaluate the two environments from many interesting aspects, such as how convenient the execution environment can be set up, what are makespans of different workloads running in each setup, how efficient the hardware resources, such as CPU and memory, are utilized, and how well each environment can scale. The results show that compared with virtual machines, containers provide a more easy-to-deploy and scalable environment for big data workloads. The research work in this paper can help practitioners and researchers to make more informed decisions on tuning their cloud environment and configuring the big data applications, so as to achieve better performance and higher resources utilization.