In continuously growing projects and systems; making alterations, scaling functions, adding new features are challenging as well as finding and resolving errors. Luckily over the years, “Container Technologies” evolved to help mitigate many of these challenges and also avoid structureless growth.
Containers are exploding onto the application development scene, especially when it comes to develop, deliver and maintain microservices. The architecture of containers divide applications into distributed objects or containers, which offer the flexibility to place them on different physical and virtual machines. Thanks to its scalability, this architectural method is also ideal when you have to enable support for a range of platforms and devices.
The concept of containers first emerged in 1979 with Unix V7 and continued with FreeBSD Jails, Linux VServer, Oracle Solaris Containers, Open VZ, Process Containers (Google), LXC, Warden AND LMCTFY. All those iterations had their own fans and devotees, but when Docker was released in 2013 as an open source (by dotCloud, a platform-as-a-service company), it opened the doors to larger container use with its high-level tool containing some powerful functionalities*:
- Portable deployment across machines
- Supports for automatic container builds
- Built-in versioning
- Component re-use
- Public sharing and
- A growing tool ecosystem
Since an increasing number of companies are choosing to use containerization along with the big players (thanks to Docker), let’s see the top 5 reasons behind this decision;
1. Ease of Deployment and Configuration
The most important benefit of containers is simplifying and speeding up the process of deployment and configuration. When you deploy a container, it is very easy to roll it out behind a firewall or cloud environments or you can either build it on a laptop or launch it in a massive web farm-in seconds.
As easy as the deployment, destroying containers is also effortless which is a huge advantage; (for example) when you are launching a product and you cannot foresee the size of the traffic it will create. Here, containers will provide you with the flexibility where you can clone to handle the growing traffic, or destroy as many containers as you want to reduce your cost in your cloud environment.
Containerization also allow you to run any platform with its own configuration on top of your infrastructure without the overhead of a virtual machine (VM). You can use the same Docker configuration in a variety of environments and run your applications across multiple IaaS/PaaS, which dissociates infrastructure requirements from your application environment.
2. High Scalability
Containerization allow you to scale only the desired functions without impacting on the entire application. For example in a web application case, containers enable companies to scale their database component without having to scale the web server or message queue. You can also scale any function instantly, sometimes even without rebooting your server for the changes to take effect.
By allowing more containers, you can increase scalability in seconds, without the need for more servers (from 10 to 100 times more than traditional VM environments).
3. Pipeline Management
Since software delivery is a process with several steps, there are different environments to go through starting from designing the app followed by building the code inside a testing environment and finally delivering the app to users. Each of these distinct steps have minor differences along the way.
Containers ease the process from development through production by providing a consistent test environment, and allowing developers to place their app inside a container, which is easily portable. This environment is also abstracted from the host systems, which enables developers to achieve zero change in application runtime environments through production.
4. Increased Overall Productivity
Containers allow developers to achieve next-generation efficiency in software delivery or allow product managers to save time and resources by settling many of the challenges that they face with traditional virtualisation.
In order for developers to be as close as possible to the production, every service running on its own VM is required to reflect how the production application runs. However when they don’t require an Internet connection, or when working remotely becomes overwhelming every time a compilation is required; Docker comes to the rescue by enabling many services to run by not adding to the memory footprint.
Containers also allow the development environment to be as fast as possible for interactive use. They provide a fast feedback loop, where developers can alter the source code from the platforms they want to use (Windows, Mac or Linux) and they can track the changes instantly as the applications run using the same source code.
This also allows other employers to use the full application setup easily and work on their job areas without the installation troubles getting in the way.
Having said that, a project manager for example, who wants to install a project management tool, would face difficulties through the installation process (taking hours, installing additional components and dependent packages) and managing these different versions. By using the Docker image, they can execute one single command to deploy the selected project management tool and avoid dependency errors.
5. Process Isolation
Application isolation provides developers with exactly what they need to deploy, in addition to avoiding dependencies. There are many benefits when you run multiple applications on the same machine such as increasing productivity and multiple server consolidation for reducing costs.
Application isolation also improves security by setting apart each of an application’s major processes into a separate container. For example let’s say you are outsourcing application development. Containers will allow you to share your resources only on the environment you want without risking your internal or external security. So the outsourced app developers who don’t work in your organization will receive the exact amount of resources needed without breaching your network.
Needless to say, the advantages of containerization- flexibility, agility, ease of deployment and greater developer experience- became very clear in both test and development environments. And even organisations that don’t conduct in-house development can take advantage of the benefits of containerization. When this is the case, it is not a surprise to see the big players continuously investing this (one of the fastest-growing) technology and organisations will definitely experience new use cases.