Container 101: What Are Containers (And How Could You Benefit from Using Them)?

Container 101: What Are Containers (And How Could You Benefit from Using Them)?

Simply put, containers make it easier for developers to understand that their software will run reliably, no matter the location it is deployed and this makes the developing of software very fast, and the testing it for likely errors very simple.

Problems arise when the environment where you want to run your software is neither identical nor supportive to the software. For instance, you want to run your tests on Debian but the production is on Red Hat; you want to carry out your test using Python 2.6 but in production, it’s going to run on Python 3. Perhaps you will depend on the behavior of a particular version of an SSL Library but an entirely different one will be installed.

Imagine what the outcome would be.

What could be the cause of this problem? Whatever the problem is, whether it’s the different topology network or different security policies and storage, the fact remains that the software has to run on it.
And this is where containers play a great role.

What are Containers? And How Do They Solve This Problem?

Containers are small, lightweight packages of one or more applications and other dependencies needed for a software to run successfully when moved from one computing environment to another. This movement could be from a physical machine in a data center to a virtual machine in a public or even private cloud, or from a staging environment into production. Perhaps, from a programmer’s laptop to a test environment.

A container is comprised of;

  • An application and all its dependencies
  • A runtime environment
  • System tools
  • Libraries
  • Configuration files

Bundling everything together makes a container small and portable. So, by containerizing the software environment and platform as well as its dependencies, the differences in operating system distribution, including other factors, are taken away.

Benefits of Using Containers

Container technology is taking the future of software development to the next level and, as such, it would be wise to find out how this new technology could provide agile IT resources for organizations and businesses.

1. Containers can run applications anywhere

A container houses an application and everything needed to run it in one place. This enables the user to simply and effectively run applications in different environments. The portable nature of the container increases the software development process by making it easier to move from one computing environment to another.

2. They use up fewer resources

Containers do not require a different operating system for its operation – requiring fewer resources. This makes it possible to run a number of containers on a single server. Also, a reduced amount of hardware is needed for containers as they have a higher utilization rate.

3. They use the same resources and also reduce security threats

Resource sharing is an integral operation of containers as they run on the same server using the same resources, but they never interact with each other. This means that if one application fails or crashes, the other containers housing the same application will keep on running seamlessly without experiencing any technical hitches along the line. This isolation helps to reduce security risks.

4. Rapid development and deployment of software

Containers do not require operating systems to boot, as such, they start instantly. With this property, developing and releasing of new software has become quicker and faster. This will offer programmers and businesses the opportunity to improve customer relationships as they will work faster and attend to the needs of their customers promptly.

5. Leads to improved productivity

Containers help to remove environmental inconsistencies and this makes testing for possible errors smooth and timely as there are smaller differences between running your software in the various environments. So, with containers, applications will run smoothly and deliver the desired results.

Containers vs. Virtual Machines

Containers and virtual machines are mutually exclusive as they possess different properties, qualities, and advantages.

Containers work very distinctly; you can put a lot of them on a single host operating system as they are only comprised of the application and other dependencies. So, this is the only operating system on the server that the containers communicate directly with. As a result, the containers will remain small and have very low overhead costs.

On the other hand, virtual machines bundle the operating system and application together. The operating systems believe that they have a server to itself but, in reality, it is sharing the server with other virtual machines and all of them run their own operating systems independently.

Now, looking at the differences…

  • It is easy and fast to deploy containers while it might take minutes or even days to implement a fully function virtual machine.
  • A container requires a small amount of operating system and system infrastructure for deployment and can run in just about any location, or even on bare metal machines or in a virtual machine.
  • The scope of a container is smaller while a virtual machine is very heavy.

Bottom Line

In reality, research has shown that the use of containers is growing and will continue to grow. This is not surprising as containers offer a lot of advantages when compared to virtual machines, particularly for programmers and developers, and can do everything virtual machines can do but better when looking at it from a development and delivery perspective.    

Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals. To view more IT content, click here.

Insights for Professionals