Containers and Microservices – A match made in heaven
Considering the demand for rapidity from modern applications, embracing haphazard Agile development methods won’t serve our need of the moment. It’s important to bring in the architectural drift that can aid Continuous Delivery. Especially, when Portability has been the biggest drawback in the space of Application Development if Modularity can help us achieve it, and translate into multiple business benefits, that’s what we need.
Drawing up a software development architecture is as much a business decision as a technical one. The chosen architecture should improve the speed of development using better software, improved talent with less expenditure. Apparently, breaking the giant application into Microservices, to develop individually and deploy independently using a service-oriented Architecture seem to top the charts. But with the ever-increasing complexity of applications and considering the processing capabilities of servers today, running each of your microservice on bare metal is not a charming option.
How about Virtual Servers?
Simulating multiple environments using a Virtual Machine may offer better-known security controls, but it runs not just a full copy of an OS, but also a virtual copy of all the applications, their related files, libraries and dependencies that the OS needs to run. That’s a lot of space burden on Host Operating System. So, each time you deploy a microservice on VM, it needs a dedicated server to run. As the application starts scaling, the weight on the Host Operating System increases, which results in limited performance.
Except for the fact that VMs are fully isolated and hence offers more security, one cannot count on VMs when it comes to the workload.
The ideal Run-time environment for the Microservices is…
Right from the phase where the application is being built, it most likely is made run in multiple environments, such as the developer’s system, to testing to final production ecosystem. Creating an isolated user space where the program can directly run on the host OS would be great. The Virtual Environment that can offer constant monitoring, lesser mean-time-to-recover post failures without disturbing other microservices will have an upper hand over Virtual Machines.
Can Containers fill the gap?
We say, Yes! The Containers naturally are built over operating-system-level virtualization mechanism. They abstract the application layer creates an image of it and encapsulate a consistent lightweight runtime environment for the service they run. They act just like the plug-and-play office set-ups. Easy to create, maintain, scale, repair and even terminate from the main application whenever needed without affecting nearly any other microservice (compared to VMs). Unlike VMs, Container-based virtualization assures the highest application density and makes the most out of server resources. Since they don’t demand a separate operating system for each service to run, the space each container takes is hardly a few megabytes. A container’s isolation boundary is at a single application-level and not server-level which makes it more risk-free in the case of hazards and reduces compatibility issues between applications.
…and it gets better with Cloud Computing!
In recent times, Cloud got insane fame for the scalability it provides, the portability element gets better with container-based virtualization. Containers create a convenient execution environment that contains nearly everything that the service needs to run (such as code, dependencies, libraries, binaries, and more) plus shares just the OS kernel and not the complete OS. Copying Cloud Containers almost instantly to create development, test, integration and live environments is easy since they are very portable. The new-age cloud container platforms are equipped with features to verify the publishers and check for image vulnerabilities. Thus, making it more robust in terms of security. With this, Version Control gets easier and improves enterprise safekeeping.
We can essentially deploy and manage containers using any programming language and technology. Cloud gives the flexibility to make the application more composable and gives better control over resources. Creating hyper-focused services through Cloud-enabled Containers with co-locational development, storage, management, and monitoring multiply the operational, surveillance and economic benefits.
Cloud computing eliminates the need to invest in hardware, encourages one-click deployments and there are prominent big shot Cloud vendors that offer pay-as-you-use models.
Is Containerization flawless?
That’ll be amazing, right! But OS Virtualization does have a few areas with a scope of improvement. For example, since containers are only isolated at process-level, they might be a little less secure than Virtual Machines which are completely isolated. The containerized applications share a common operating system and any breach of OS safety is a potential security threat to the whole application. Having a strong container security scanner system incorporated to the Continuous Integration pipeline, to scan each time a container captures a new image and pushed, can prevent the image to transport the vulnerabilities of the base ecosystem further into the other environments.
Communication between Containers (especially when you are relatively new to them), is a tricky job. Each time the codebase is changed, the container needs to be packaged well and ensure the inter-container-transmission isn’t disturbed before deploying the new code into production. Creating containers isn’t an affordable option for start-ups and small organizations since they need a long-running hosting location. But this fact is more likely to change as the partitioned environments are developing to mature.
But again, Microservices and Containers can get better as they grow old together. Orchestrating multi-container applications using cloud computing can result in high scalability, elasticity, and availability. Containers can enable Continuous Delivery like no other mechanism. Containers can scale proportionally with the complexity of Microservices and nearly the only option to achieve the required coordination. Thus, a match made in heaven!