Containerization is growing in popularity, and there is a good reason for that. It is a great way of application packaging that provides an effective solution for automating IT provisioning processes. Containerization can empower DevOps teams to focus on their most important goals — admin guys on preparing containers with the required dependencies and configurations; and developers on efficient coding for fast and easy application deployment.
Container-based Platform-as-a-Service solutions or pure Container-as-a-Service enable automation along with other benefits like eliminating human errors, speeding up time to market and making resource utilization more efficient.
Key benefits of containerization include:
- High application density and maximum utilization of server resources compared to virtual machines.
- Low TCO as advanced isolation of system containers lets run different types of applications on the same hardware node.
- Reusing unconsumed resources for other containers on the same host.
- Optimized memory and CPU usage based on the current load with automatic vertical scaling that doesn’t require restart while changing resource limits.
Making the most of containerization for DevOps demands thoughtful attention to a few key obstacles, especially for beginners. Below we’ll cover some of the points that should be considered while building and implementing a containerization strategy.
Assessing Current Project Needs
At the outset, DevOps teams need to carefully assess the status of their projects and determine what is necessary to migrate to containers, and realize the long-term, sustained benefits of this move.
Often people have the misunderstanding that containers are only right for greenfield applications (microservices and cloud native). But monolithic and legacy applications also can transform and start a new life by using containers. It is just critical that the appropriate container type is selected.
An application container (like Docker) can run as little as a single process. They are often a better choice for new projects, as it is fairly simple to create the required images using publicly available Docker templates considering microservice patterns and modern infrastructure design requirements.
A system container (like LXC, OpenVZ or Virtuozzo) functions as a complete OS and can run full-featured unit systems and spawn other processes inside. This type is preferable for monolithic and legacy applications as it lets reuse architecture and configurations that were implemented in the original VM-based design, so the structure will remain more or less the same.
Anticipating Future Project Needs
After analyzing program definition, technologists have to anticipate future needs. With project growth, complexity will expand, so a platform for orchestration and automation of the main processes will most likely be required.
Management of containerized environments is complex and dense. So PaaS solutions are a valuable approach to support developers and let them focus on coding. There is a myriad of choices when it comes to container orchestration platforms and services. Deciding which is best for a specific organization and applications can be difficult, especially when the requirements are quickly evolving. Here are a few considerations to pay attention to when selecting a platform for containerization:
- Flexibility: The platform should offer a diverse set of built-in tools, and possibilities to integrate third-party technologies so that developer innovation isn’t hampered. Also, it’s important to have a platform with automation that can be adjusted depending on changing requirements.
- Locking-In: Many PaaS solutions are proprietary, so they can lock you into one vendor or infrastructure provider.
- Cloud Options: When using containerization in the cloud it’s crucial that your approach supports public, private, hybrid and multicloud deployments, as requirements are always expanding.
- Pricing: When you select a platform, it is often a long-term commitment. So you need to consider the pricing structure over time not to face a right-sizing problem. Many public cloud platforms offer VM-based licensing, which might not be ideal if you’ve already migrated to containers, which can be charged for real usage, not for the reserved limits.
The platform you select can have a serious impact on your business success, so the process should be thoughtful and well-discussed.
Making a transition from virtual machines to containerization isn’t without complexity. Your ops team will need to familiarize themselves with the key distinctions between these two very different approaches to achieve the efficiency, flexibility and success that containerization can deliver.
Traditional operations know-how is obsolete when it comes to efficient containerization in the cloud. Cloud providers now often deliver management of infrastructure hardware and networks, and Ops teams need to manage software deployment automation by scripting and using container-oriented tools.
System integrators and consulting companies can offer their knowledge and help to support you in realizing the benefits of containers. But if you want to manage the whole process internally, the best way forward will be to cultivate in-house expertise — hire experienced DevOps professionals, study best practices, and develop a new knowledge base.
Also, for large organizations, it is crucial to select a solution that handles heterogeneous types of workloads using virtual machines and containers within a single platform, because enterprise-wide container adoption can be a gradual process.
Containerized environments are very dynamic, capable of changing much faster than environments in virtual machines. This agility is a valuable container benefit, but it can be a challenge to ensure the right level of security, while simultaneously enabling the required fast and streamlined access for developers.
You’ll need to evaluate your organization’s unique security risks as you embark on a containerization strategy to ensure your proprietary information and data are protected. And you’ll have to keep in mind that basic container technology doesn’t easily work with interservice authentication, network configurations, partitions, and other matters regarding network security when calling internal components inside a microservice application.
Additionally, using publicly available container templates provided by unknown third parties can be fraught with risk. Vulnerabilities can be intentionally or accidentally included in this type of container.
Traditional security approaches should be bolstered with a regular security evaluation to keep pace with today’s fast-changing technology landscape. There is a myriad of tools and orchestration platforms on the market with certified, proven templates so you can secure containers and accelerate the configuration process.
There is a full spectrum of technology options for container orchestration, to make adoption simpler. However, the most important piece of the puzzle in making the most of containerization for DevOps is a knowledgeable team of people that understand container-specific best practices to maximize the value of this approach and ensure your organization achieves enduring DevOps success.
The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners, an investor in the following companies mentioned in this article: Docker.