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Containers and Microservices: Two Peas in a DevOps Pod

Mar 16th, 2018 9:38am by
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Matt Chotin, AppDynamics
Matt Chotin is Sr. Director of Developer Initiatives at AppDynamics, charged with leading AppDynamics products to better support developers in improving performance and achieving business outcomes. Prior to AppDynamics, Matt held product leadership roles at Chegg and Adobe and co-founded his own startup.

Batman and Robin. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Starsky and Hutch. And now, there’s one more pairing to add to this list of dynamic duos: containers and microservices.

Containers and microservices are rapidly becoming the norm for enterprise organizations. After all, 64 percent of technology professionals expect the mainstream use of containers this year and 89 percent are either already using or interested in using microservices. And it’s easy to understand their rising popularity: They enable agility, speed and resource efficiency for many tasks that developers work on daily.

But while containers and microservices can certainly be a match made in DevOps heaven — this only holds true if they’re safely implemented and effectively monitored.

Containers and Microservices 101

Developers use containers and microservices in many tasks, from app delivery to the migration of legacy systems to cloud servers. But what exactly are they?

  • Containers are isolated workload environments in a virtualized operating system. They speed up workload processes and application delivery because they can be spun up quickly. They also provide a solution for application-portability challenges because they are not tied to software on physical machines.
  • Microservices are single-function applications comprise small, self-contained units working together through APIs that are not dependent on a specific language. A microservices architecture is faster and more agile than a traditional application architecture.

So while containers and microservices exist independently and serve different purposes, they’re often used together; consider them the PB&J of DevOps. Containers are an enabling technology for microservices, which is why microservices are often delivered in one or more containers. Since containers are isolated environments, they can be used to deploy microservices quickly, regardless of the code language used to create each microservice.

The Impact of Containers and Microservices on Enterprise IT

Containers and microservices offer numerous benefits for enterprise IT organizations — but they also have many implications when it comes to resource management, strategic goals and monitoring capabilities. By understanding and documenting what these implications could be prior to implementation, technology leaders can ensure the adoption of containers and microservices results in successful outcomes for both IT and the business.

These new DevOps tools need to be leveraged in a way that ensures the level of insight and control that enterprise IT requires. When implementing and managing containers and microservices, DevOps teams must actively work to prevent application sprawl, unauthorized use and problematic code — all issues that could easily spiral out of control if allowed to go undetected and untreated. And this is precisely where application performance monitoring shines. (For step-by-step guidance, download our eBook: Getting Started with Containers and Microservices.)

The Role of Application Performance Monitoring

Application performance monitoring (APM) can help enterprises safely adopt and scale the use of containers and microservices. Being able to see all applications and environments in the stack — with metrics on the containers, operating system, server and applications — provides the visibility needed to drive successful adoption.

Unfortunately, most traditional IT monitoring applications fail to offer a good way to track metrics related to containers or the applications they hold within. As a result, organizations can develop huge operational blind spots in their test, dev and demo environments.

A comprehensive application monitoring solution, on the other hand, can provide full visibility into containers and microservices; as well as insight into how they are being used and their influence on goals, such as better productivity or faster time-to-market. And with visibility into the dependencies your applications have on one another, you can also lower the risk of migrating to containers and microservices.

Rethinking Your APM Requirements

Containers and microservices make the enterprise IT stack more complex, and thus more difficult to monitor. The introduction of more technologies means that DevOps teams can quickly be overwhelmed with data if they choose to use a monitoring tool that is too narrow. And traditional logging is also ineffective because microservices are stateless, distributed and independent: If attempting to log them, an enterprise would produce way too many logs to easily identify a problem.

After considering the implications of containers and microservices, many organizations find they need a new APM solution that will fill the identified coverage and capabilities gaps. In this case, organizations should look for a monitoring solution that can trace interactions from the user through all of the application service calls and infrastructure. Having full visibility into every component of the enterprise IT stack is vital, and ultimately, a monitoring platform should be able to treat containers and microservices just as any other application or infrastructure component in the continuous delivery toolchain.

Balancing Agility and Control

Containers and microservices are here to stay. The proof is in the numbers: Organizations using Docker containers report a 13x increase in the rate at which applications are released, and companies like Airbnb, Dropbox and GE have seen development lead times drop by as much as 75 percent when using microservices. To remain competitive, organizations need to understand not only how to use these new DevOps tools to develop apps faster, but also how to more effectively glean actionable insights into their performance.

DevOps and IT teams can harness the full potential of containers and microservices with an APM solution that will scale as they are spun up, used and decommissioned over and over again within the technology stack. With a safe, scalable approach to the implementation and ongoing management of containers and microservices, together these two DevOps tools really can be the ultimate power pair.

This article was contributed by AppDynamics, a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature Image via Pixabay.

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