Containers in the cloud offer so many benefits. Would you like to know what these benefits are? Then you should read through this guide. As you read, do well to take note of the types as well.
What are Containers?
Containers are packages of software that contain all of the necessary elements to run in any environment. In this way, containers virtualized the operating system and run anywhere, from a private data center to the public cloud or even on a developer’s personal laptop. From Gmail to YouTube to Search, everything at Google runs in containers.
Containerization allows our development teams to move fast, deploy software efficiently, and operate at an unprecedented scale. We’ve learned a lot about running containerized workloads and we’ve shared this knowledge with the community along the way: from the early days of contributing groups to the Linux kernel, to taking designs from our internal tools and open sourcing them as the Kubernetes project.
What Is a Container in Cloud?
Containers in the cloud are hosted in an online environment. Users can access them from anywhere. However, application processes or microservices in cloud-based containers remain separate from cloud infrastructure.
Picture containers as Virtual Operating Systems that wrap your application so that it is compatible with any OS.
As the application is not bound to a particular cloud, operating system, or storage space, containerized software can execute in any environment.
How Do Cloud Containers Work?
Container technology began with the separation of partitions and chroot processes, introduced as part of Linux. Modern container engines take the form of application containerization (such as Docker) and system containerization (such as Linux containers).
Containers rely on isolation, controlled at the operating system kernel level, to deploy and run applications. Containers share the operating system kernel, and do not need to run a full operating system—they only need to run the necessary files, libraries, and configuration to run workloads. The host operating system limits the container’s ability to consume physical resources.
In the cloud, a common pattern is to use containers to run an application instance. This can be an individual microservice or a backend application such as a database or middleware component. Containers make it possible to run multiple applications on the same cloud VM while ensuring that problems with one container do not affect other containers or the entire VM.
Cloud providers offer several types of services you can use to run containers in the cloud:
- Hosted container instances—let you run containers directly on public cloud infrastructure, without the intermediary of a cloud VM. An example is Azure Container Instances (ACI).
- Containers as a Service (CaaS)—manages containers at scale, typically with limited orchestration capabilities. An example is Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) or Amazon Fargate.
- Kubernetes as a Service (KaaS)—provides Kubernetes, the most popular container orchestrator, as a managed service. Lets you deploy clusters of containers on the public cloud. An example is Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).
What is the Role of Containers in Cloud Computing?
Containers are a common option for deploying and managing software in the cloud. Containers are used to abstract applications from the physical environment in which they are running. A container packages all dependencies related to a software component and runs them in an isolated environment.
With containers, commonly running the Docker container engine, applications deploy consistently in any environment, whether a public cloud, a private cloud, or a bare metal machine. Containerized applications are easier to migrate to the cloud. Containers also make it easier to leverage the extensive automation capabilities of the cloud—they can easily be deployed, cloned, or modified using APIs provided by the container engine or orchestrator.
Why Do We Need Containers?
The main advantage of containers is that they are lightweight and portable and thus help the developer a lot in configuring and deploying their application. There are many reasons for using Containers but only some of them are listed below:
- Lightweight: Containers share the machine OS kernel and therefore they don’t need a full OS instance per application. This makes the container files smaller and This is the reason why Containers are smaller in size, especially compared to virtual machines. As they are lightweight, thus they can spin up quickly and can be easily scaled horizontally.
- Portable: Containers are a package having all their dependencies with them, this means that we have to write the software once and the same software can be run across different laptops, cloud, and on-premises computing environments without the need of configuring the whole software again.
- Supports CI/CD: Due to a combination of their deployment portability/consistency across platforms and their small size, containers are an ideal fit for modern development and application patterns—such as DevOps, serverless, and microservices.
- Improves utilization: Containers enable developers and operators to improve CPU and memory utilization of physical machines.
- More consistent operation: DevOps teams know applications in containers will run the same, regardless of where they are deployed.
- Greater efficiency: Containers allow applications to be more rapidly deployed, patched, or scaled.
- Better application development: Containers support agile and DevOps efforts to accelerate development, test, and production cycles.
Different Types of Containers
The very growth and expansion in container technology bring a large set of choices to choose from. Docker is the best-known and most widely used container platform by far. But there are some more technologies on the container landscape, each with its own individual use cases and advantages.
Docker is one of the most popular and widely used container platforms. It enables the creation and use of Linux containers. Docker is a tool that makes the creation, deployment, and running of applications easier by using containers. Not only the Linux powers like Red Hat and Canonical embrace Docker, but the companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Oracle have also done it. Today, almost all IT and cloud companies have adopted Docker.
LXC is an open-source project of LinuxContainers.org. The aim of LXC is to provide isolated application environments that closely resemble virtual machines (VMs) but without the overhead of running their own kernel.
LXC follows the Unix process model, in which there is no central daemon. So, instead of being managed by one central program, each container behaves as if it’s managed by a separate program. LXC works in a number of different ways from Docker. For example, we can run more than one process in an LXC container, whereas Docker is designed in such a way that running a single process in each container is better.
CRI-O is an open-source tool that is an implementation of the Kubernetes CRI (Container Runtime Interface) to enable using OCI (Open Container Initiative) compatible runtimes. Its goal is to replace Docker as the Container engine for Kubernetes. It allows Kubernetes to use any OCI-compliant runtime as the container runtime for running pods. Today, it supports runs and Kata Containers as the container runtimes but any OCI-conformant runtime can be used.
What Are Containers Used for?
Enterprises and other organizations use containers because it enables:
- Agile development
- High efficiency
- Future-ready solutions
If you are not sure about when and why containers are useful for your business, see their major use-cases:
Future-proof solutions must have the fewest dependencies possible. Keeping this in mind, companies prefer to develop containerized apps from the get-go. This “container-native” development can reduce the difficulty and expense of migration in the future.
Application Refactoring or Modernization
What if you have a legacy, non-containerized app that you want to port to the cloud? Depending on how much improvement your application needs, you can either lift and shift existing applications to containers or re-factor them for better deployment. This action ensures that you get all benefits of containers without totally transforming your cloud infrastructure.
Continuous integration and Deployment (CI/CD)
Containers are a favorite of DevOps developers for building applications that can be deployed, scaled, and integrated without hiccups. With containers and server containerization allowing seamless continuous deployment, your development team can also streamline the development and testing process.
Batch processes interact with other applications and run in the background. They don’t need inputs from end-users directly. They may share information and execution space. For example, an app to calculate call time or a time-tracking app for employees uses batch processing.
Containers allow sharing of operating systems, libraries, and other dependencies among similar applications. That’s why they are ideal for deploying and executing batch processes.
Businesses can save memory space and achieve better performance through the use of containers for such applications.
You can use containers to develop apps that follow a microservices architecture. Such an architecture will utilize multiple containers to deploy one app, creating a container cluster—a group of containers in a containerized environment. Etsy, Netflix, and Uber are a few apps that follow the microservices model.
Applications in a distributed cloud architecture stay in multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud environments in general. Organizations share resources and data center container deployments when using distributed systems. However, non-containerized apps can make portability and interoperability challenges.
Containers make a perfect pick for application development to solve these issues. If you will use containers, you set yourself up for easy data and application migration and resource sharing between clouds.
In conclusion, containers bring a different view to cloud technology. They offer a logical packaging mechanism in which applications can be abstracted from the environment in which they actually run. There’s no reason not to invest in container technology.