Software Contained. What is containerization and why does it matter?
One of the software trends that’s emerged over the past couple of years, Containerization, has quickly picked up pace, building on the momentum of another trend, virtualization, which it can either replace or complement.
Containerization is the ring-fencing and packaging of an application so that it can run across any infrastructure. This affords benefits to developers, ops teams, and overall infrastructure alike.
For developers, Containerization enables applications to be deployed quickly and securely. An alternative to traditional practices in which code is built in a specific environment and then transferred to a new location, often resulting in bugs and errors, Containerization bundles application code with its related configuration files, libraries, and dependencies. The resulting package or “container” is free standing and portable—able to run across any platform or cloud infrastructure.
What we’re really talking about here is process isolation and that’s not new. However, the development of an open source engine, Docker, which delivers an industry standard for containers has accelerated the popularity of the Container approach. Leading analyst firm Gartner predicts that over 50% of enterprises will use container technology this year.
Where applications are concerned, Containers encapsulate the software as a single executable package that, as noted above, bundles application code with all of its required configuration files, libraries, and dependencies. This means that with simple, fast, deployment and isolated from its environment, the containerized application is not reliant on a copy of the operating system but rather, an open source runtime engine (for instance, Docker) is installed on the host’s operating system, and this acts as a bridge for the contained application to function with other containers on the same computing system. Apart from efficiency, isolation of applications reduces the risk that malicious code present in one container will invade the host system.
The abstraction of the containerized application enables portability and consistency of operation across any platform or cloud infrastructure. Containers can be easily transported from a desktop computer to a virtual machine (VM) or from a Linux to a Windows operating system, which means that software developers can use whichever tools and processes play to their strengths.
To summarise, containerization delivers measurable benefits to developers and development teams:
- Fault isolation
- Ease of management
These benefits are critical in a communications landscape that is rapidly moving to the cloud and where it’s critical that users have the ability to develop applications quickly and efficiently. Containers (along with other trends including microservices and cloud computing) work with each other to deliver application development and deployment benefits that traditional methodologies and environments do not support. Next-generation architectures have to be agile, efficient, reliable, and secure, to ultimately meet the needs of end users and the market. Containerization is here to stay.