Developers are understandably faced with the constant pressure to quickly deliver and deploy new features. This is further complicated by other challenges such as different languages, multiple architectures, and frameworks.
This is where containerization comes in, to relieve developers of this pressure by accelerating the workflow while setting the developers free to get creative in choosing tools, deployment environments and application stacks.
This post will define containerization, break down the benefits of containerization and illustrate why containerization is now huge in application development.
What is containerization?
Containerization is the process of breaking down and isolating development projects into self-sufficient units that can be shipped and run anywhere.
What are containers? A container is a stand-alone computing unit that holds or contains all that is needed to develop and run an application: the entire code, runtime, system tools, libraries and settings. You can understand it better by starting with the layman meaning of a container, which is «an object for holding or transporting something». This same concept applies when it comes to development. Here, a container is used to «hold and transport» applications. The “contents of the container” can be deployed and run from any computing environment—development, test, or production— without any significant changes.
Containers are lightweight and fast-starting, because they don't require the entire operating system of their host machines. This means that the application can be started and stopped within a fraction of the time of a traditional application. They can be deployed on any platform, including virtual machines, public or private clouds ( containers in cloud). The most popular container technologies are open source and they conform to the open container standards.
Benefits of Containerization
So, what are the benefits of containerization? One of the most prominent benefits of application containerization is that it's platform-agnostic. This makes it a perfect solution for cloud-based applications, for example. When your application is running in a container, you don't have to worry about compatibility issues when deploying it to a new environment.
Here are the top containerization benefits which also apply to benefits of containerization in cloud:
Easy to scale
Containers can be easily scaled up or down to meet the needs of the application. This makes them ideal for deployments in the cloud. They are easy to deploy, replicate, and destroy.
This means developers can release new applications and features much faster, thus speeding up time to market. Moreover, this technology is highly compatible with existing applications and infrastructure, allowing developers to reduce the number of VMs and associated infrastructure.
With the ability to scale, containerized applications can be deployed across multiple PaaS and IaaS environments with no hassle. This flexibility allows developers to scale applications on the fly without rebooting servers. You develop with confidence, aware you can scale without disrupting your application's performance.
Containers are portable
Containers are isolated from the underlying infrastructure, which makes them portable across different environments (cloud, on-premises, etc.).
Before the advent of containers, developers had to install and run their applications on virtual machines, and the applications were often not portable. They were cumbersome to move, maintain, and upgrade, and they weren't lightweight. With containerization, you can build your applications and test them on any system without worrying about compatibility issues.
Portability is particularly valuable in today's development environment where remote teams are becoming a big factor. Most companies now have remote employees worldwide and are unable to offer predictable hours. Containerization ensures consistent performance across time zones and devices. Moreover, it allows remote developers to maintain consistency in code despite the time zone and location.
Containerization scales down the risk of single containers over-consuming resources and instead maximizes the use of resources by using just enough memory, cpu and disk space. They run minimal processes and do not affect other applications running on the system.
The underlying operating system and kernel of lightweight containers will be shared. The latter will consume less memory and ensure that all applications run uniformly. This enables developers to share features without worrying about application instability as a single application can share code with many other developers without causing inefficiency.
Containers also make it easier for software developers to continue using their favorite tools and environments, ensuring that their applications remain consistent and efficient.
Containers offer better security thanks to isolation from the underlying infrastructure as well as from other containers. Unlike a virtual server, where an application needs to be protected not only by the bare metal but also by a virtual operating system, containerized apps only need to be protected on the host system itself.
Containers are sandboxed, meaning that they can't access the files or resources on the host machine. This prevents applications from contaminating the host machine and causing data loss or corruption.
As containers share the OS kernel of the host machine, they do not require an individual operating system for each application. This enables you to run multiple applications on the same computing resource, a significant cost benefit.
Moving between vendors is equally cost effective, thanks to the open container standards which most orchestrators and managed service providers conform to.
Docker and Kubernetes
Often, Docker and Kubernetes are mistakenly treated as 100% interchangeable technologies where you just need to choose one or the other and you are good to go. On the contrary, these two are fundamentally different technologies that should actually work together to efficiently build, deploy and scale containerized apps.
Docker is open-source technology that automates the deployment of containerized applications on-premise or in the cloud. It provides an open standard that powers the packaging and distribution of containerized apps. Kubernetes, on the other hand, is open-source technology for orchestrating (arranging ) and scheduling many containers (e.g Docker containers) at once. It provides an API that helps developers to control how containers run and where.
Benefits of Docker
One of the fundamental benefits of Docker is its ability to simplify deployment. With Docker, you can build container images and use them across multiple steps, separating non-dependent steps and running them in parallel.
This allows you to speed up the build-to-production process. You don't have to spend time worrying about application compatibility. The cost would be far more than you can afford.
With docker, developers can work in standardized environments. Instead of having to set up and manage environments on every development machine, for example, you can simply push applications into a test environment and execute automated tests.
Benefits of Kubernetes
A major benefit of Kubernetes is that it helps developers to effectively manage multiple containers across different operating environments. Containers are grouped into “pods” which are controlled like a single application, sharing resources. You can basically scale up or down at will with a single command.
Kubernetes tightly packs apps to reduce running times and reduces the need for administrators to manually scale containerized applications. By eliminating these problems, Kubernetes frees up administrators to focus on business value instead of infrastructure management. As a result, Kubernetes can help organizations of all sizes realize substantial cost savings. Moreover, Kubernetes also helps developers spend more time focusing on innovation.
All sizes of organizations can benefit from Kubernetes, from startups to established companies. Google, Shopify and Adidas are some of the world’s giant companies that have adopted Kubernetes and are now enjoying the many benefits of container orchestration.
Benefits of Containerization: Conclusion
Containerization has become a popular way to deploy and manage applications, and is the future of application development for many reasons.
First, it's easier to manage and scale your applications. Second, containerization makes it easier to deploy applications to any environment—development, test, or production—with no changes to the application. Finally, containerization is more secure than traditional application deployment methods.
Kubernetes has emerged as the leading platform for container orchestration, while Docker continues to be the most popular container runtime.
Which is the major advantage of using containers?
The major advantage of containers is the fact that they allow you to write and deploy applications once and run them everywhere. In addition to this, they provide fault isolation, security, and ease of management. Containerized applications do not bundle their code in an OS copy; they instead use a standardized API that any system administrator or developer can understand. Because they are not running on the same machine as the host application, there are no security risks.
Should I containerize my app?
Yes. When you containerize your app, you're essentially splitting it into smaller, more manageable parts. This makes it easier to deploy and manage, and can help reduce downtime. Containers also make it easier to upscale or downscale your app, making them a great option for businesses that are constantly growing. Another benefit of containerization is that it can help improve security. By separating your app into different containers, you can make it harder for malicious actors to gain access to your data. Finally, containerization can also help reduce costs by making it easier to optimize your resources.
Why are containerized applications considered lightweight and fast?
Containerized applications are considered lightweight and fast because they don't require a full OS installation like virtual machines do. In fact, a container typically uses less than 1GB of disk space. This means that you can run more containers on a given server. And since containers start up and launch much faster, you can create a more responsive environment for your applications.