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What You Need to Know About Containerization: An Overview

Victor Kaitell | | July 6, 2021


 

Containerization is a hot topic for decision-makers in the Application Development (AppDev) space. According to Mordor Intelligence, between 2021 and 2026 the application container market is expected to see a 29 percent compound annual growth rate. And, it makes sense because there are many benefits to using containers.

 
If you’re thinking of adding containers to your Application Development toolbox, there are things you need to know about containers.

What Is a Container?

Container technology was named after the shipping industry’s use of the term container. Rather than shipping products individually, the shipping industry uses containers that can be placed on a ship that is designed for the containers’ standard size.

Containerization could well represent the future of computing. Containers hold a unit of software that includes the code and all dependencies while allowing it to share the machine’s operating system kernel. Containers allow applications to run efficiently and reduce costs for servers and licensing.

Containers are extremely scalable because of their relatively small deployment size. Additionally, containers are the building blocks in the implementation of Microservice Application Architecture. Microservices afford developers the ability to separate applications into specific units of work, which can speed up Enterprise system development.

The Container Versus Virtual Machine Discussion

Some people wonder about the difference between containers and Virtual Machines (VMs). VMs have been used for a long time and supported the first moves to cloud computing. A VM mimics a physical computer. IT teams using VMs can run the equivalent of multiple machines with multiple operating systems on one computer.

Containers are more lightweight and more agile because they run on a shared operating system kernel. They support microservice architecture, which allows for deploying and scaling application components on a more granular level. Containers have an advantage over VMs because developers don’t always know where the applications they’re building will be deployed. From that standpoint, containers provide more flexibility than VMs.

Typical Container Use Cases

Containers are used in a variety of ways:

  • Updating existing cloud applications.
  • Developing new applications that can leverage the benefits of using containers.
  • Supporting microservices.
  • Increasing DevOps output by streamlining the process of building, testing, and deploying new applications.
  • Allowing developers to work in a stable production environment.
  • Automating repetitive functions.
  • Supporting multiple computing environments.

Container Technology

You have several alternatives for container technology. The first major open-source container offering was created by Docker and it’s still the most popular container technology. In fact, it has evolved into the standard for containerization.

When companies have a few containers, management isn’t an issue. However, as the number of containers that must be managed by IT grows, managing them gets more and more complex. This is where container orchestration comes into play. It’s almost impossible to do the management of many containers manually.

Kubernetes offers a container orchestration product that allows you to manage thousands of containerized applications. It’s an open-source tool that the engineers at Google developed and donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Kubernetes automates many aspects of managing containers through scheduling, scaling, and managing the health of containers. Using Kubernetes, you can fully implement and confidently use a container-based infrastructure in your production environments.

There are some concerns about the security of container infrastructures, and you need to be careful when you implement containers. The concern is mainly that if there is a security problem with the container host kernel, it will affect all the containers that are associated with it. Vendors like Docker are working to increase the security for containers such as security scanners that notify admins if there are vulnerabilities in the containers.

How to Get Started with Containers

If you’re just getting started using containers, here are some tips that will help you make informed decisions about creating a container strategy that will work for you. This is a relatively new technology. If you decide it could help your operation, consider whether you have the in-house expertise to make it a success. This is a time when many companies look to outside partners to provide expertise and knowledge transfer to use containerization to its greatest benefit.

  1. Do you have the expertise?

    Containers are a hot topic and finding the expertise you need can be a challenge. Decide if you can hire the expertise you need or whether you want to work with a partner to grow your own experts.

  2. Do you know what containers and microservices can contribute to your operation?

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of using the latest technology because you know your competitors are using it. Start with an in-depth analysis to determine which of your applications can benefit from containerization and what it would take to implement it.

  3. How mature is your Agile and DevOps Process?

    If you are in the early stages of using Agile and DevOps processes, determine what it would take to include containerization in your operation. Containers can help you to make the transition to more Agile development, but it will require changes to how you do things now. Decide how you will help your teams integrate this new approach.

  4. Can you keep up with a rapidly changing technology?

    Today, most technology is changing rapidly, but it’s not that much of an issue when you already have a solid base of expertise and knowledge to help you keep up with the changes. You’ll need people, either your own or a partner’s, who have the expertise in containerization to make sure you can decrease risk and monitor implementation.

  5. What is involved in converting your applications?

    Take a look at your existing applications and determine what would need to be done to turn them into one or more containers. Some applications are so connected or disconnected from data or other components that it will be extremely difficult to containerize them. You need to decide if the benefits of containerization are worth the effort.

    Luckily other applications will be easy to turn into containers. It’s similar to the evaluation you probably conducted when you decided to move some of your applications to the cloud. The same type of calculations of the total cost of ownership will apply.

  6. Should you containerize or convert to DevOps first?

    Both evolutions have requirements for training and/or hiring. In some cases, it may be more beneficial to move to containers first, then address the issue of transforming to a DevOps environment. In many cases, you can reduce risk and costs.

Next Steps

As technology is evolving, it’s likely you’ll need the benefits of containerization at some point in time. You’ll need a strategy to incorporate containers where they make sense and to identify applications that you want to prepare now for containerization when the timing is right.

Datavail is an expert and trusted leader in the areas of AppDev and DevOps. We can help you benefit from containerization in a controlled and cost-effective way. Our application development experts can help you with AppDev, integration or implementation. Contact our AppDev and containerization experts today.

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