A standard software package (known as a “container”) groups an application’s code with associated libraries and configuration files, along with the dependencies necessary for the application to run. This enables developers and IT professionals to deploy applications in all environments seamlessly.
What are Containers?
Containers provide a logical packaging mechanism in which applications can be abstracted from the environment in which they run. This separation enables container-based applications to be easily and consistently deployed, regardless of whether the target environment is a private data center, the public cloud, or even the developer’s laptop. Containerization provides a clear separation of concerns as developers focus on the logic and dependencies of their application. In contrast, IT Operations teams can focus on implementation and management without worrying about applications, such as specific versions of the software and specific app settings.
Why the Containers?
Rather than virtualizing hardware as is the case with the virtual machine approach, containers are virtualized at the operating system level, with multiple containers running directly on top of the operating system kernel. This means that Containers are much lighter (need less RAM), share the kernel of the operating system, are initialized – bootstrap – much faster, and use a fraction of the memory compared to operating system needs.
Containers isolate applications from each other unless explicitly connected to them. There are no conflicting dependencies or resource contention; explicit resource limits are set for each service.
Containers provide the opportunity for developers to build predictable systems separated from other applications. Containers can also include the application’s software dependencies, such as specific versions of the runtimes, the programming language, and other software libraries. From a developer’s perspective, this is guaranteed to be consistent, regardless of where the application is deployed.
All of this translates into productivity gains. Developers and IT operations teams spend less time debugging and diagnosing differences in environments and more time generating new functionality for users. And this means fewer bugs, as developers can now make assumptions in dev and test environments that they can be sure will be true in production environments.
Containers can be run anywhere, making development and deployment much easier, be it on Linux, Windows, or Mac operating systems; in virtual machines or bare metal (physical server, not virtualized); on a developer machine or in local data centers; and of course, in the public cloud. Portability is also supported by the widespread adoption of the Docker image format for containers.
Containers virtualize CPU, memory, storage, and network resources at the operating system level, providing developers with a sandboxed view of the operating system and logically isolated from other applications. In other words, they create a silo environment.
Impact on IT Processes
As was the case with Virtualization, Containers bring with them several positive impacts on IT processes. The first revolves around management. In traditional processes, IT operations have a lot of responsibility, often not shared with the development group or other areas of the organization . Some traditional processes include the use of virtual machines, periodic software updates, new physical server deployments, synchronization of test/development and production environments, security management, and much more.
On the management front, tools like Docker Enterprise Edition provide the agility, portability, control, and security necessary to run Container environments on a large scale.
Difference between containers and virtualization
- Virtual machines have many advantages. It includes the ability to run multiple operating systems on the same server,
- The use of physical resources more efficiently and cost-effectively, and quicker provisioning of servers.
- Each virtual machine, on the other hand, includes an operating system image, libraries, programs, etc., so it can be huge.
A container virtualizes the underlying operating system and makes the containerized application perceive that it has the operating system (including CPU, memory, file storage, and network connections) all to itself. Since differences in the underlying operating system and infrastructure are abstracted, as long as the base image is consistent, the container can be deployed and run anywhere. For developers, this is extremely beneficial.
Developers do not need to boot an operating system or load libraries because containers share the host operating system. This makes it easier to be much more powerful and lightweight for the containers. Containerized apps may be launched in seconds, and relative to a virtual machine environment, several more instances of the application can fit on the machine. The operating system’s collaborative strategy has the additional advantage of minimizing overhead management, such as patching and upgrading.
Although containers are portable, they are limited to the operating system for which they are defined.
The almost unlimited potential of Containers
Containers will significantly increase the speed of software development, the platform’s independence, the efficiency of resources, and the reliability of processes. In today’s quick-paced, lean environment, they are a perfect solution for companies.
To list some of the most important advantages that Containers offer:
Improved Resource Utilization: Containers provide process isolation, allowing granular control over Processor and Memory for better resource use. While a Virtual Machine often “weighs” several gigabytes, a Container can weigh megabytes, allowing more Containers to run on a single server than is possible with Virtual Machines. As a result of reduced resource requirements, organizations enjoy significant cost reduction by moving from Virtual Machines to a Container ecosystem.
Quick Start – Each Container runs as a separate process that shares the underlying operating system’s resources. Virtual machines can take several minutes to boot their operating systems and start running the applications they host, while applications in Containers can start in seconds.
Greater modularity and security: instead of running a single complex application within a single Container, the application can be divided into modules (Microservices). Applications created this way are easier to manage, as each module is relatively simple, and changes can be made to modules without recompiling the entire application.
Container isolation also reduces security risks: if an application were “hacked” or breached by malware, any resulting problems would not affect other Containers running the same application. Even if malware affects only one microservice, all other microservices would be safe.
Optimized development pipeline: Using a Container-based ecosystem eliminates inconsistencies from runtime environments, allowing developers to ensure that applications work as designed. Developers spend less time testing and debugging versions and configurations for particular environments, as Containers can be replicated for an organization’s development.
Simplified production deployment: Containers make it easy to upgrade an application in manufacturing. It can be done using various deployment methods, so once the changes are implemented, if production failures are found, they can be immediately reverted to the previous version. This decreases the effect on an organization’s customers due to implementation errors.
Role of Containers in Achieving Continuous Flow
Adopted from the world of manufacturing, lean and continuous flow has become an ideal that many DevOps organizations strive to achieve but struggle to implement.
Containers can help you get closer to continuous flow. Applying the same ongoing thinking to Containers can help you chart a path forward, but there are many aspects to consider.
An ongoing focus on Containers helps clear the fog as organizations attempt to meet modern demands for faster cycles and move toward a Container base.
To understand whole concept of Containers, within the field of Information Technology, it is worth taking a look at the
Nine key aspects
- Containerization – The key to achieving Continuous Containers is to contain existing and new applications.
- Container Automation – With faster cycles and the required quality confidence, Container automation is critical.
- Container Operations: Working in a container ecosystem involves shifting conventional approaches to operations. It needs a modern toolchain and the general life cycle to be understood.
- Container Connectivity: Containers need new forms of connection and communication.
- DevOps: Maturing DevOps capabilities means connecting traditional silos, reexamining processes, and streamlining life cycle and flow.
- Flow Integration – A critical component of Continuous Containers is understanding and integrating the toolchain and overall lifecycle.
- Container Architecture – The Container drive should include a well thought out architecture designed to meet your needs.
- Changing the culture: Continuous Containers involve changing the way people think at all levels of the organization, the way people are connected, and the way they work.
- People and Organization Alignment – Continuous Containers require a shift in responsibilities, allowing many teams and individuals to contribute throughout the lifecycle and flow.
Businesses can make substantial improvements with Containers. However, Containers by themselves are not a “ready to use” solution. Taking advantage of them correctly, ensuring that they are safe, and sometimes deploying them successfully involves certain complex operations. These are the critical points to consider:
- Adopting, implementing, and managing containers is more easily accomplished with a comprehensive plan and long-term strategy.
- Ingrained behaviors and territorialism among work teams can be serious impediments to adoption.
- Despite their attractive moniker, Containers are not a standalone solution. Associated activities and ecosystem tools must accompany the deployment.
- For lasting success, organizations will preferably already have a mature DevOps practice.
Even with these caveats, container-adopting companies’ benefit in terms of speed, agility, and efficiency of the software process are undeniable.
Containers are not a weird word, a fad, a short-lived trend, or something that people mention to show off some sophistication. They are an excellent and very serious alternative to Microservices, as well as an invaluable ally for DevOps. Companies that are entirely dedicated to Application Development, as well as the Development areas of companies that leave out Containers, are seriously doomed to failure and extinction.