We get that by now, you are aware of the term “Containers” due to its popularity in the digital market. But If not, here are some crucial pointers that would play a role in understanding the role of containers in DevOps.:
- Like a software package with– application source code, libraries, configuration information, & dependencies inside it. Each package is isolated from the others.
- Providing OS-level virtualization.
The Need for Containers in DevOps
Think of a scenario where developers have written code in JAVA SE 7 & the production environment is in JAVA SE 10. The difference in environments will cause the source code to break at any moment in production – leading to colossal disasters like non-functional features in production, code loading issues & so on.
Your software development & IT operation team will come across many similar scenarios, is there any way out of these compatibility issues? Remember, earlier we discussed OS-level virtualization of containers?
Since containers are a package of code, libraries, dependencies, configuration files in the form of OS-level virtualization. Each package can run, test, & deploy in its respective environment & pace without hampering other containers & computing environments. Hence, switching computing environments will not affect source code & its performance in production!
It’s no wonder why 85% of organizations will be containerizing their applications by 2025.
How Containers are different from Virtual Machines?
Containers are faster than Virtual Machine & they consume less OS memory.
Containers are packed by Dockers - an open-source platform. Let’s say an OS is running in the Docker & your production engine will run three containerized applications, you will need only a single docker to run all the three containers.
If it were two Virtual Machines running in your production engine. It would require Hypervisor & two OS layers.
Now, you can imagine using a Virtual Machine increases software complexity & decreases speed!
The Popularity of Containers in DevOps
These days almost every organization follows DevOps practices. DevOps started around when flicker came up with “10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation” around 2009 and is still going strong. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) is at the core of the DevOps mindset.
- CI (Continuous Integration): Automatic building and compiling of code that assists teams with early detection of technical issues.
- CD (Continuous Delivery): It is a way of getting all the changes- bug fixes, configuration changes, new feature additions, and more in a production environment safely, quickly, and sustainably.
It improves the CI/CD process and fastens the production rate
Containers in DevOps bring the Development and Operations teams together to solve the problem of the last mile.
- Easy Integration: Flexibility to integrate with existing technology.
- Production: Helps with faster deployment, patching, and application scaling.
- Consistent: Enables higher system consistency due to no dependence on the system configuration.
- Resource: Lightweight in nature which means it shares the machine’s kernel and does not need the frequent association of OS with applications thus saving a lot of computational resources.
- Portability: Containerized applications can be used across any system without any code change provided the systems are using a uniform operating system.
- Reusability: Since the code remains the same with the dependencies, file systems, and binaries, they are considered a single image. One can even do version control at this image level.
Scalability and Orchestration
As organizations grow systems become more and more complex hence comes the dire need to scale the containers. There are various options to scale them:
- Kubernetes: It is an open-source tool developed by Google. It is a cluster container management and deployment tool that is used to scale containers. Kubernetes can assist with scheduling any number of replicas of the containers as a group of a single node for fast software module production.
- Cloudify’s Docker Orchestration Tool: It is an orchestration tool by Cloudify that helps developers with describing – complex topologies, middleware tiers, application layers and so on.
- Docker Swarm – This tool helps with the scheduling and clustering of containers. It helps teams to manage Docker clusters as a single virtual system.
- System Container: System container is one of the oldest forms of container technologies. It is a standalone OS associated solution that runs without specialized software like Dockers.
Some of the best practices for container scalability and orchestrations are:
- Investing time in understanding the architecture of your container-based application.
- Understanding your application’s scalability- via implementing proof of concepts with workloads and massive data.
- Focusing on the security aspects - as they need to scale well with your applications.
Containers in DevOps Use Cases
Some of the popular container use cases are:
- Microservices: They smoothen – the deployment and scalability of any distributed applications, including microservices.
- Platform as a Service: They provide the platforms to help developers get rid of the infrastructure management requirements and help with - application management and deployment.
- Batch Processing: With containerization, you can easily perform batch processing jobs. All these jobs are packed into a container, and you can define the containers to start those jobs and even scale them as per your environment.
GitOps – It might become the industry’s next big thing. It uses Git repository commit details to deploy container clusters. It gives IT developers & operation teams options to go back to previous commits in case of any errors.
This section will cover some of the popular tools that are used to execute different container-related activities.
Tools for running containers:
Docker: It is one of the top tools that we have covered in the earlier section.
CRI-O: It is an open-source and exceptionally lightweight tool that is used to implement the runtime interface of a container.
Microsoft Containers: They are equipped with various tools for running, developing, and publishing Docker images in a windows environment.
Tools for cluster management and deployment:
Kubernetes is top of the chart that we have already covered in the above section.
Apache Mesos: It is a computational resource abstraction tool that can run Docker and rkt images simultaneously inside the same cluster. DC/OS acts as the data centre for this tool.
Docker Swarm: We have discussed it in an earlier section.
Container Storage Tool:
BlockBridge: It is a storage platform that uses Docker, Kubernetes, OpenStack for safe storage.
EMC: It is a free and open-source tool that uses a code library for storage purposes.
Container Security Tool:
Twistlock: A Docker image is usually the combination of an operating system, servers, and many software components. Securing those multiple constituents becomes harder and harder. Twistlock’s vast database can audit the docker image for major threat and vulnerability detection.
Aporeto: Through this tool, you can program and enforce security policies as per your requirements. The main purpose of this tool is to encrypt the workloads between the containers.
Are Containers in DevOps worth the hype?
In this section we will have a quick glance at industry stats about why they are taking the market by storm:
- As per a 2021 statistica report, nearly 19% of participating global organizations have containers for a business strategic role
- As per the RedHat survey, containers helped participating organizations with:
- Innovation – 39%
- Modernization – 36%
- IT Support – 34%
The rising positive role of containers in DevOps is undeniable as it helps organizations to deploy products faster, reduce their cycle time while keeping the product quality intact. If anything, the popularity will increase as more and more organizations are turning to a DevOps mindset.
If making your applications reliable and resource optimal is one of your top priorities, then talk to us. Our DevOps CoE team would help with defining your end-to-end containerization strategy and implementation.