Software development is on the rise as we are entering the digital era and the future of work. Software engineering has come a long way with tools and technologies evolving at a pace that sometimes is quite difficult to even comprehend. Container registries are one example where such services have revolutionized the IT industry and facilitated its growth.
Before moving on to the benefits and use cases of containers, it’s better to understand what containers really are. In short, a container registry plays the role of a repository or even multiple repositories where container images can be stored and accessed by software engineers. These registries are used for applications that have been created via containers. If an engineer is creating a cloud-native application, using something like Gitlab container registry, Harbor, or the Container Registry by JFrog is definitely the way to go.
There are two platforms that are very famous when it comes to building containers and even managing them; Kubernetes and Docker. These are used for creating different applications.
Docker is able to deploy different kinds of software and containerized applications within different kinds of environments. Docker was created to be able to function within multiple OS environments like Linux or Windows. In order to automate and scale these container-based applications, software engineers need orchestration tools. This is where Kubernetes comes in.
Containers and Virtual Machines:
It’s easy to be confused; where you might end up considering Virtual Machines and Container technology as the same thing. Even though both of them share some similarities, they are still quite different.
Virtual machines are built to function within a hypervisor environment. Every virtual machine must have its own guest OS. It should also have all the relative application files, binaries, and libraries. Obviously, such a setup is very resource-intensive and will prove to be costly down the line. However, when it comes to containers, every container has the same operating system. It also takes a considerably reduced amount of time to start due to its size. It would only amount to a few MBs normally, whereas VMs can take up gigabytes and also take longer to start up.
The Benefits of Using Containers:
From being extremely lightweight to its scaling abilities and agile nature, there are quite a few benefits of adopting container technology:
1. Lesser Costs:
As mentioned already, virtual machines are much more resource-intensive as compared to containers. Because the element of operating system images does not apply to containers, lesser system resources are needed to run these.
Since containers are able to function within multiple operating system environments, container-based applications can be deployed on multiple kinds of hardware platforms and operating systems.
Because container-based applications are portable, they can run the same on any system once they have been deployed. This reduces the quality assurance loop by quite a lot since a change in platforms will not result in the application working any differently.
Container-based applications are able to be deployed a lot faster and scaled a lot more rapidly and efficiently. Think of reduced hassles when it comes to CD/CI pipelines.
5. Better Development:
Containers support agile which leads to development, testing, and production becoming a lot faster.
How Software Engineers Utilize Containers – Use Cases:
Here are some common ways in which engineers make use of container-based technology:
- Migrating Applications to Container Architecture:
Containers are sometimes used to migrate applications that already exist to environments that are much more modern. Even though it would be recommended compared to not migrating at all, it is important to note that OS virtualization may not offer all the benefits that container architecture provides and will provide the basic benefits only.
Migrating to a container-based architecture might be lesser effort, but refactoring will give an engineer all the benefits a container environment does.
- Developing A New Container-Based App:
It goes without saying that this approach would offer all the benefits a container-based application would.
- Streamlined CI/CD Pipeline:
Containers allow the building, testing, and deployment cycle to become a lot more streamlined because it’s from the same container images.
- Easier Deployment of Repetitive Tasks:
Deployed to support tasks and processes that are similar to each other in nature, containers allow these to run much easier in the background.
When the Docker Engine was introduced in 2013, it completely changed the dynamic of developing cloud-native applications. Since then, container technology has done a great job of helping organizations scale their applications in a much more organized, efficient, and profitable manner.