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The Container Craze: Should you be buying in?

Jul 16, 2015

Containers……docker……rkt…..kubernetes……appc……mesos…….atomic…..LXC…..photon……magnum……coreOS……. cgroups…….microservices

These terms may not mean anything to you right now, but we’re willing to bet that you’re exposure to them has significantly increased over the past 12 months. As any IT professional has succumbed to the ever changing information landscape it has become a bond that unites us all as we try to wade through the sea of relevant technological trends. At HighVail, we’ve had more and more discussions with customers regarding this new Open Source movement so we believed it was timely to help you envision how this latest craze can benefit your organization.

What you need to know

Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with Solaris Zones which has been around since 2005 when Sun initially offered them. Containers have evolved from this legacy as an alternative, to traditional virtualization for certain workloads. Now, this does not mean that containers are going to replace your hypervisor (at least not yet) but there are a number of benefits that it can bring to your environment.

You may or may not have noticed, but VM’s consume a lot of your server’s resources. Every VM not only runs a full copy of the operating system, but also a virtual copy of all of the hardware that the OS uses to run. As you continue to stack VM’s on your physical host this “overhead” starts adding up, taking up disk space, CPU cycles, and memory. This is where the beauty of a containerized environments begins, as a container only requires as much of an OS, libraries, and resources to run a single program. In other words let’s say you have 10 Linux VM’s running on a physical host, you’ve downloaded Linux and the underlying system information ten times. With containers in the same environment, you’d only have to download the Linux kernel once and the separate containers would access it as needed. A VM on the other hand, might be several gigabytes in size, wherein a container will typically be only twenty to thirty megabytes in size. You can now put two to three times the applications on a physical host with containers versus your traditional VM’s.

However, maybe your environment isn’t large enough to where this overhead is a concern, but that’s where the next benefit of containers really comes into play: DevOps and Portability. A container comprises a complete runtime environment; you’re application, the configuration files, binaries, libraries, and all of its dependencies, bundled into a single image that can run on any operating system. Packing the application and its dependencies this way, allows the infrastructure team to patch, update, and maintain the OS without needing to worry about compatibility issues. Since the differences in the OS and infrastructure have been abstracted, you’ve now added a way for developers and sysadmins to build, ship and run distributed applications differently. The containerized application could seamlessly move from a developer’s laptop to your test environment, from test or UAT into production.   You can even move this container from a physical host in your datacenter, to a virtual machine in a public cloud.

As you can see there are a number of benefits to deploying a container strategy in your environment. Containers provide a solution of how to get applications to run consistently, when moved from one computing environment to another, with less overhead than virtualization provides. Keep in mind that this craze is still in its infancy but you can expect over the next twelve months that this ecosphere and vendor support will continue to grow, and industry practices and security protocols will become more standardized. We’re not recommending that you throw away your ESXi cluster, BUT if you’re running ten instances of MariaDB, give us a call to better understand how containers can drive maximum efficiency within your organization. For more information contact us at 1 (416) 867-3000 or info@highvail.com. You can also visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @HighVail!

Written by Doug Buinger
Sales, Highvail Systems Inc.