In the early days of software development, deploying software could be a fraught experience: organizations would need to frequently evaluate the software for bugs across every platform on which the code was deployed, eating up valuable time the developers could use for furthering organizational initiatives. Modern developments in the area of containerization have allowed software developers to bypass this issue by creating a self-sustaining application that doesn’t require significant troubleshooting once it’s deployed.
Containerization as a concept has been around for some time, but the development of the open-source Docker Engine in 2013 allowed it to become a more mainstream tool for developers to use when working with cloud-based deployments. The ability to create a piece of software that can operate across platforms with minimal bugs is so attractive to most organizations and software engineers that containerization has become a standard process for most development projects.
But what actually is containerization and how does it benefit your organization?
A Quick Explanation of Containerization
Defining containerization has been attempted many times, and if someone hasn’t had experience working on the technical side of software development, the confusion is understandable. While it’s easy to understand that containerization can lead to software that works across platforms, how is it actually developed?
Broadly speaking, every piece of software relies on four key things:
- Computer Infrastructure, or the hardware used to run an application.
- The Operating System that system uses to operate an application.
- The Software Engine used to operate an application.
- The Application you’re looking to deploy.
The issue with this set-up in the past is each layer was integrated with the last, which means that coding an application for a Windows operating system would experience bugs if ported to a Linux based system. Even within Windows operating systems using a different OS or Software Engine version (like IIS versions), this integrated approach could cause problems for implementation.
Containerization bundles these layers together, creating a single file that’s guaranteed to work on every deployment platform you want to use, provided the platform supports docker (or other) containers. This is usually a “yes” or “no” question since a host either supports containers or it doesn’t. You’re not asking questions about OS versions and .NET versions, or other technical details. The file isn’t tied to the host operating system used to develop it, so the result can be moved to other servers without causing a disruption in its functionality.
What are the Benefits of Containerization?
Containerization has become the standard approach for cloud-based software development because of how beneficial it is to the development process. It enables software developers to create applications that are:
- Portable, so they can run consistently across platforms.
- Faster, given that containers share the OS kernel of the host machine without additional overhead.
- Efficient, since containers are smaller, allowing you to use more of them without impacting start-up times.
- Easy to Manage, as there are several robust container orchestration platforms that can help automate the management and deployment of containers.
There are other benefits to using containerization for software development that largely depends on the organization that wants to deploy it and the complexity of the project. For example, containerization can enable a software developer to create a complex application that relies on multiple containers, effectively compartmentalizing functionality to ensure any one fault doesn’t cause the entirety of the system to stop working. This would have the added benefit of also protecting the application from a malicious piece of code, since it would only be able to impact a single container at any given time.
Why Shouldn’t I Use Containers?
Using containers to manage your software development efforts only works if you’re working with a cloud-based application. You can’t use containers to develop locally-based applications as the system is primarily designed for ease of portability, but they can be used as an option for migrating existing servers to the cloud.
If you’re working with APIs, websites, or other cloud-based applications, then containerization is by far a better strategy to use than any other. Even if you’re looking to bundle a simple website into a single container, you’ll still see benefits from the process because it will make it easier to move the website from one hosting service to another if the need arises.
Containerization and DevOps
Using containers as the basis of your organization’s software development strategy will naturally introduce flexibility and speed to your development process, and that makes it an ideal framework for pursuing a DevOps strategy.
Each container within a containerized application has everything it needs to be deployed, and that allows different functions to be deployed across an organization’s development team. This kind of deployment allows teams to iterate quickly and create more stable applications overall.
With the help of an orchestration platform like Kubernetes, it’s possible to use the principles of DevOps to automate a significant portion of the testing and deployment of new code.
The Need for Containers
As with any piece of technology, the use of it can be defined by general rules, but those general rules often miss key areas of nuance that can change the recommendation.
As stated before, there are clear moments when containers aren’t called for in your software development initiative, but if you’re considering implementing it on existing applications, it’s definitely possible to do. Due to its portability and scalability, containerization can be an ideal tool to help with cloud migrations so you can set your organization up for success down the line.
If you’re interested in talking about how containerization could help your specific organization, contact us, and we’ll be happy to discuss your business’s needs in greater detail.