image courtesy kubernetes.io
One of the most exciting and simultaneously challenging things about working in technology is the speed at which change occurs. The process from a cutting-edge technology to a ubiquitous and commoditized product can happen in the blink of an eye. Now that the cloud has made its way into all sizes and types of business the next related technology has emerged: containers. So it is fair to ask; Are Containers the forecast for cloud?
How we got to this port
VMware’s introduction of virtualization was thought by many to be the predecessor of cloud as we know it today. This revolutionary technology allowed early adopters to reduce costs and enhance their IT agility through virtualization software. The day of physical servers for each application are over. Cloud technology has evolved from a single software for the enterprise, to an outsourced product that is provided to businesses such as major technology institutions like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Most recently, containers have evolved as a next step for cloud and are largely developed to suit the needs of software developers.
The difference between Virtual Machines (VM’s) and Containers
A container is defined by Docker as a stand-alone executable software package that includes everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system libraries and settings. In many ways, that sounds like a VM. However, there are significant differences. Above the physical infrastructure, a VM uses a hypervisor to manage the VMs. Each VM has their own guest operating system such as Windows or Linux (see image #1). A container uses the host operating system and the physical infrastructure which supports the container platform such as Docker. Docker then supports the binaries and libraries of the applications. Containers do a much better job of isolating applications from its surroundings and this allows the enterprise to use the same container instance from development to production.
(Image 1) (Image 2) Images courtesy of docker.com
How can Containers be used in the Enterprise today?
Docker is currently the most popular company driving the movement for container based solutions in the enterprise. The Docker platform enables independence between applications and infrastructure allowing the applications to move from development to production quickly and seamlessly. By isolating software from its surroundings, it can help reduce conflicts between teams running different software on the same infrastructure. While containers were originally designed for software developers, it is becoming a valuable IT infrastructure solution for the enterprise.
One popular platform allowing the enterprise to benefit from container technology is Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an opensource system originally designed by Google that was donated it to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Kubernetes assists with three primary functions in developing containers: deployment, scaling and monitoring. Finally, open source companies such as Red Hat are developing products to help utilize these tools and simplify containers for all types of business. OpenShift, designed by Red Hat, is a container application platform that has helped simplify Docker and Kubernetes for the business IT manager. The adoption of new technology, such as cloud computing, often takes time to be accepted in the enterprise. Containers seem to be avoiding this trend and have been accepted and implemented quickly in businesses of all types and sizes.