When we deploy the code from one computing environment to another, the chances of bugs and errors are more. To fix this, software developers run software in individual “containers,” which are small virtual environments in the cloud. Containers are self-contained environments on the same operating system (OS), eliminating complicated setup every time. Hence, businesses are adopting containerization swiftly.
The popularity of containerization is on the rise, eliminating the need for virtual machines and saving vital computing resources and time. An open-source project, Docker, gave containerization a big boost, increasing the portability of the application and saving effort.
What is Containerization?
Containerization is a method of operating system virtualization in which applications run in isolated spaces called containers, using the same operating system (OS). The new norm of software development involves encapsulating all the codes with all the underlying dependencies together into single, isolated user space. In simple words, containerization is an encapsulation of an application and the environment needed. The consistent and isolated runtime environment of containers comprises everything the code needs to run on.
It is operating-system-level virtualization that allows users to deploy and run distributed applications or systems in containers without the need for a complete virtual machine for each application.
Benefits of Containerization
One of the most significant aspects of a container is that it’s lightweight. This means that containers share the machine’s operating system kernel and do not have to include all of that overhead that comes with running an OS. Containerization increases efficiency and reduces server and licensing costs while speeding up start times.
A container has the entire application and its environment in an executable package. It runs on any computer without being dependent upon the host operating system. Therefore, it is incredibly portable and can run uniformly across any device or cloud.
Each containerized application is isolated and operates separately. Therefore, failure of one does not affect the operation of other containers. Development teams can identify and rectify any technical issues in the faulty container without any downtime for others. Also, the engine can isolate faults within containers using OS security techniques. If a critical vulnerability needs addressing, the issue remains within just that instance without affecting other applications on the same server.
Containerization platforms automate installation, management, and scaling up of containerized workloads and services. Container orchestration platforms can aid in managing several management tasks such as rolling out new versions of apps, scaling up, monitoring, logging and debugging, and more. Kubernetes is the most popular container orchestration platform available.
Containers are smaller in capacity than virtual machines (VMs). Not only can they be run more efficiently on cloud platforms, but they can also make it easier to control software. These containers can be moved from one host to another, if necessary. They can run independently of one another, which means they require far fewer resources than virtual machines, letting you run more of them at once. You now know why containers are powerful choices for businesses.
The isolation of applications in the form of containers inhibits malicious code from influencing other applications or the host system. Moreover, security permissions can be established to prevent undesired components from entering your containers or limit communication with unnecessary resources.
How does Containerization work?
Every container includes an executable package of software that runs on top of a host OS. The host can support hundreds or thousands of containers simultaneously. All containers run minimal resource isolated processes that are not accessible by others. That’s why this setup works well.
A containerized application is like a multi-tier cake:
- The bottom level has the hardware, including the disk storage, CPU, and network interfaces.
- Above the hardware level, the host OS and kernel are there, which serve as a bridge between the software of the OS and hardware of the system.
- On top of the host OS, there is the container engine and its minimal guest OS that are particular to used containerization technology.
- At the topmost level, there are libraries and binaries for each application.
What applications and services need Containerization?
Containers suit almost any purpose, and can support practically any type of application that in earlier times would have been traditionally virtualized or run natively on a machine. Also, there are several computing paradigms, especially well-suited to containerization. Some of them include:
Developers can containerize database shards, and each application can be allotted its own dedicated database instead of connecting all of them to one monolithic database.
2. Web servers
Spinning up a web server can be done with just a few command line inputs, plus it reduces the need to run the server directly on the host.
We can configure the microservice architecture as a set of containers operating in tandem, spinning up and decommissioning as needed. Running the microservices applications in containers gives developers the best of both worlds. Containerization breaks monolithic applications into separate microservices. This helps businesses handle complex problems and the dependencies of app development.
4. Containers within VMs
Containers can be run inside virtual machines (VMs) to maximize hardware utilization and increase security.
5. Modernization and migration
Containerization platforms and infrastructure can be leveraged to modernize and migrate mission-critical and complex workloads to the cloud. Containerization enables an enterprise to create scalable cloud-native apps efficiently.
6. Cloud computing
Containers offer many advantages that make them ideal for cloud implementation. They can run on any environment, whether it’s an on-premise setting, cloud or even developers’ machines. This portability makes it easier to have hybrid and multi-cloud deployment configurations.
Kubernetes is the most prominent container orchestration platform, witnessing a significant growth in usage. Its open-source framework has already proven its worth, with many leading enterprises using it to orchestrate their containerized workloads. Initially, it was an open-source software produced by Google, which has since transferred its development to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
Though it is not the only solution, the feature set of Kubernetes is an ideal example of what a modern container orchestration platform must be capable of.
Container orchestration refers to the automation of running, managing, networking, and scaling containers. Kubernetes takes care of everything one needs to deploy and manage his containers.
Adoption of Containerization
Container adoption is growing rapidly in the industry. A new Gartner report agrees: “By 2023, more than 70% of global organizations will be running more than two containerized applications in production, up from less than 20% in 2019.”
As developers are urged to accrue faster than previously, container interrelation offers clear advantages. Containerization lets development and operations teams deliver software without the stress of constantly reconfiguring infrastructure, hence saving time and costs. Several case studies have revealed that organizations adopt containerization to save up to 50% in the production environment.
When containers are deployed in large quantities, they need to be managed. Orchestrators are used for running, terminating, updating, and redeploying containers. Google Trends shows that searches for “container orchestration” have increased dramatically over the last three years, indicating a growing interest in container management. Orchestrators such as Kubernetes, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), and OpenShift are common in the container management market, according to a study by the CNCF.
How to choose the right container management platform
There are multiple options for container management platforms, here is how you can choose what’s right for your organization:
Using an open-source platform means you have to do it all by yourself. Kubernetes is the most popular open-source project one can download, install, and run in-house or on cloud. Being open-source, it needs some hard work, including:
- Support and maintenance
- Doing everything in-house by development teams
- Configuration of added services such as storage, networking, logistics, registries, metrics, etc.
All this requires considerable investment and skills of internal teams. This option is not as easy as it seems.
Some examples of open source platforms include:
- Docker Swarm
Several public-cloud merchants provide managed services for running containers. The offered services offer speedy cluster provisioning options, and many cluster management tasks are performed by the cloud service provider. That means they provide enterprise-level security, integrated CI/CD tooling and are usually Kubernetes-compliant.
Some options include:
- Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS)
- Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
- IBM Cloud Kubernetes Services
- Amazon Kubernetes Service (EKS)
Enterprise container platforms
The final option is adopting an enterprise container platform that can provide value-added services and pre-integrated components for supporting developers and operations teams to leverage the platform. All these products can eliminate a lot of work related to building containers, installation, configuration, and setup.
Some examples are:
- Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform
- Docker Enterprise Edition
- IBM Cloud Private
- Pivotal Platform/Kubernetes Services (PKS)
We had a quick glance at what the container is. However, you might need some expert help on embarking on your containerization journey to choose between containerization or virtualization and to know more about containerization tools. Let’s talk about the possibilities of adopting container strategies for your business.