The following is the second blog in a series about software containers and Kubernetes, and their importance in modern application delivery.
In our last blog in this series, we looked at what software containers are and their evolution over time. In this blog, we will examine the reasons that businesses are turning to containers and how they benefit businesses.
Containers are lightweight and immutable, which means they lend themselves to increasing the speed of software delivery. Containers package all the applications dependencies and configurations within the container image, which allows for the same image to be used across all environments without modification. This eliminates many inconsistencies and speeds up defect resolution. It also supports a more agile and DevOps oriented approach, improving the development, test, and production cycles of an application. In addition, the speed at which applications can be distributed or adopted within an environment is greatly improved due to container repositories and standard image formats. The velocity of application delivery has evident benefit to the business as it supports the ability to deliver new value and capabilities to customers more quickly at scale.
Similar to shipping containers that travel across the ocean, software containers are a means for distribution. They allow applications to be run safely and confidently in multiple places. Containers are packaged and transferred to servers directly via registries using a simple tag, push, and pull model that’s easily automated. OCI has brought on increased confidence and guarantees around compatibility thanks to their container image and runtime specifications. Unlike virtual machine images, container images can easily be migrated between clouds without a lot of rework. Portability and repeatability is a common struggle for software teams, and containers are a means to largely overcome that friction.
The nature of software containers is that they have limited impact on other applications running on the same node (node = single physical machine). This increases simplicity, security, and stability for all apps/services on the node. The lighter footprint that containers have compared to VMs allows you to potentially run thousands of containers on one node – all in isolation. Application density increases. From a business standpoint, this enables tremendous flexibility around infrastructure use and can dramatically reduce overall resource consumption.
Since containers are more lightweight and their contents are designed to be ephemeral (meaning the critical data is stored outside the container then mounted as a volume), containers can be restarted quickly and seamlessly if your application allows for this. If a container fails to start properly or stops responding, a new instance of the container can be scheduled by an orchestrator, helping to ensure high-availability. The ability to ship containers between different clouds and infrastructure providers can also be a factor in maintaining constant uptime.
The container packaging model aligns well with modern, distributed application architectures that consist of different microservices. Once past the learning curve, one should work to decompose existing apps and package them more simply as immutable images. This pattern is proven to streamline operations via reduction of onerous tasks such as operating system stabilization, runtime provisioning, and other configuration. Deployment of an individual application or service is complete, easily repeatable, and fast. Immutable containers limit setup and configuration to primarily operational and environmental settings, and force different behaviors in how applications and the operational readiness of a container must be addressed during development.
The overall benefits
The combined benefits of containers enable an accelerated pace of software delivery, which at the same time lowers the cost of development and operations. Businesses are leveraging containers to build new cloud-native applications, re-architect existing applications, and as a lift-and-shift strategy to move COTS or legacy applications to the cloud. Containers are used everywhere: private data centers, public cloud, and are commonly used to enable seamless portability between environments.
As the number of organizations using containers continues to grow, there is a movement towards management of containerized infrastructure and applications at a strategic level that’s growing even faster.
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