Technology is constantly changing at a rapid pace; every year there are advancements in certain fields, new ideas, alternatives to existing solutions. There was a time in the field of IT where one couldn’t even run a simple program on anything other than a massive computer that filled an entire room. In just a few years, those giant computers shrank in size and increased in power – this was the start of the personal computer (or PC) age, which even now is being replaced by the mobile device age. In a few decades, we are able to carry around pocket-sized computers more powerful than the ones that sent men into space and to the moon.
One of the more recent technologies that is promising to change the landscape of tech – and specifically, the landscape of software development – is Containerization. We spoke to TechQuarters, a London IT support company feel that Containerization is a major advancement in the field of technology that led to Cloud computing. Since the widespread implementation of Cloud computing in our lives, a lot of the constraints we typically associated with computers and software have start to fall away. A decade ago, it would have been inconceivable to the average person that you could store your photos and documents in the Cloud – an invisible and data repository that has no single physical location. Nowadays, however, the Cloud is a pretty common term in our technological vocabulary.
What is Containerization?
The reason Containerization is closely linked to Cloud computing is because it is largely seen as an alternative, or a companion to Virtualization, which is the principal technology responsible for a functioning Cloud infrastructure.
Containerization is a process that essentially allows a software to be written once, and be run on any platform. This concept has excited a lot of software developers; and as the technology is maturing rapidly, it is becoming clear that it is a most viable solution that has many measurable benefits.
Traditionally, when it is being developed, software needs to be developed in a specific computer environment – in other words, a software that is intended for desktop computers is normally developed on a desktop computer; a software intended for Windows would be developed on Windows, and the same goes for Linux, or Mac, and for things like Virtual Machines and other forms of computing. In other words, if one tried to develop a software on one platform, and then use it in a different platform, things would start going wrong.
How does it work?
When developing containerized software, the main application code is grouped together with its dependencies – such as configuration files, libraries, and everything else it needs to run on any platform – which is packaged into a container. The container is then abstracted – in other words any elements of the software and its dependencies that only have relevance to the platform they were developed on are removed, leaving only the stuff that is essential for the software to run. This process of abstraction turns the software into a standalone, portable piece of software that can run on any device without a problem.
Virtualization vs. Containerization
One of the benefits of Containerization is that you can take two types of software that were developed on different platforms – such as Linux software and Windows software – and containerize them; this would then allow you to run the software on a third, completely different platform – such as a server – and they will still run perfectly. This is a similar outcome to what is possible with the technology of Virtualization. However, TechQuarters, who have provided IT managed services London businesses have relied heavily on for many years, believe that there are some significant differences between the two technologies – and Containerization is proving to be a lot more interesting.
Virtualization is used in the creation of Virtual Machines (VMs) for use on servers. For example, similar to the scenario described above, a server could be running multiple Virtual Machines representing different platforms like Linux and Windows. A Virtual Machine is similar to a container in that it containers the software and all of its dependencies; but with a VM, the dependencies of a software also includes a copy of the operating system that it was developed on. In other words, instead of abstracting the software to get rid of any platform-specific elements, VMs simply bundle them in with the software, which is a much less efficient use of resources.
With Containerization, a server would be installed with what is known as a container runtime engine, which enables all the containers to share the same OS, regardless of where they were developed.
What are the Benefits?
The benefits of Containerization have many benefits that software developers have been able to witness and measure since the technology was first developed and applied. IT support departments and providers will find a lot of advantages to using containerized applications, especially in the realm of server function and maintenance, and in security.
To start with, the portability of containers is a huge advantage over traditionally developed software. Developers can create executable packages of software that can be run on any platform or cloud environment they want. This portability is due to the fact that the container is not bogged with OS-specific dependencies – for instance, a server doesn’t need to have multiple operating systems installed onto it, which would take up a great deal of space and slow the server down. This makes executing containerized software much faster and cheaper.
Another useful aspect of containerized applications is that they operate independently. This means that if one of them fails, it will not affect the function of any other containerized software; if all the software running on a server was containerized, it would be much more modular and therefore much easier to fix problems as they arise.Increased security is a huge advantage to containerized applications. The fact that they are isolated process, completely independent from each other, means that they are much less likely to pass malicious code to other applications if they are infected. Containers can also be configured to limit communications with any unnecessary resources – in the event of malicious code attempting to infect the container, this would stop the container from interacting with the code.