Containers are fast becoming a buzzword in the cloud technology circle, with companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook all making use of them. In fact, many industry experts are predicting a container market explosion this year and beyond.
What are containers?
Containers are essentially a logical packaging mechanism that virtualises operating systems (OS). Application code can be separated from the environment in which it actually runs so that it can be run anywhere – be it a desktop or in the cloud.
This separation allows container-based applications to be deployed consistently with ease, whether the target environment is in a data centre, public cloud, or a developer’s personal laptop.
Containers Vs VMs
Containers are often compared with virtual machines (VMs). VMs work with a guest OS such as Windows or Linux running on top of a host OS with virtualized access to the hardware.
With containers, instead of virtualizing the underlying hardware, they virtualise the OS, so that each individual container accommodates only the application and its libraries and dependencies.
Why are containers useful?
Containers are able to operate with the minimum amount of resources to perform the task that they were designed for with the absence of the guest OS. This makes containers far more lightweight, portable and faster for developers and IT teams to work with.
It is important to recognise that cloud containers are designed to give developers the ability to create predictable environments that are isolated from other applications. This isolation is beneficial if anything goes wrong in the container, as it will only affect the individual container rather than the whole VM or server.
Docker is the most popular open-source platform that really put containers on the map. Docker’s competitors include AWS ECS/EKS, rkt and OpenVZ, but Docker remains the market leader.
The platform works by creating images of software programs and applications and packing them into Docker containers – these containers include all the parts the program needs in order to run correctly. The Docker platform contains a special OS that the containers run on, but this is not the same as a normal OS – it is a much lighter option, making it more portable and easier to work with.
Whilst Docker began the packaging and distributing of containerized applications, it highlighted a problem – how would the containers be scheduled, coordinated, or upgraded without interruption of service?
Therefore, solutions for organising containers began to surface, such as Kubernetes, a container orchestrator developed and introduced by Google in 2014. It quickly became the market leader and the standardised means of deploying distributed applications.
The future of containers
Over the past few years, container technology has grown from an emerging trend to a well-established technology, with some reports indicating that more than half of Fortune 100 companies have deployed containers.
With research company 451 estimating that the container market will grow from $762 million in 2016 to $2.6 billion in 2020, it seems that the technology is set for steady growth in years to come. Could this be the next big cloud trend?
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