According to Benjamin Coetzer, director at vendor-neutral cloud infrastructure provider Routed, containerisation will redefine the cloud. “Enterprises are embracing containers at a much faster pace than expected. It is completely changing the face of what hybrid cloud looks like and how applications are being built; containerisation will become a vital skill to possess in most, if not all, software development roles.”
Virtualisation, containerisation and Kubernetes
Back in the day, explains Coetzer, businesses ran applications on physical servers. “It wasn't possible to define boundaries for the system resources these applications would use, which led to bottlenecks. The only option was to run each application on a different physical server, which quickly became very costly.”
Enter virtualisation, which enabled users to run many virtual machines (VMs), each with their allocated applications, on a single physical server. It allows organisations to carve physical resources into more appropriate-sized virtual machines, operating systems like Windows or Linux installed on it.
Containerisation takes it a step further, encapsulating software code that can run uniformly on any infrastructure. Traditionally, code developed in a specific computing environment would have bugs when transferred to a new location – such as from a Linux to a Windows operating system. A container packages the software away from the host operating system, making it portable and able to run on any platform.
Existing applications can also be repackaged into containers to use computing resources more efficiently. “You can effectively run multiple, different applications with multiple different OS versions on the same virtual machine or physical server without having to worry about one application affecting the other. Though similar to virtual machines, containers have relaxed isolation properties to share the OS with other applications. They’re considered lightweight and share CPU, memory, process space, and more. But they are also portable across clouds and offer a host of benefits - agile application creation and deployment, continuous development, observability, environmental consistency and more,” says Coetzer.
Of course, all these containers need to be managed, and Kubernetes is the answer. “This rapidly growing, portable, extensible, open-source platform runs and manages containerised work loads and services at scale. Kubernetes provides the framework to run distributed systems resiliently, handling care of scaling and fail-over for the application, giving deployment patterns and much more, ”says Coetzer.
Benefits for business
The benefits for developers are clear, and multiple. “Containerisation enables developers to control their application runtime environment in a much more granular way, ensuring that applications can be built and shipped in a consistent and programmatic manner. This greatly reduces the time to deploy software into production environments and enables the use of CI/CD pipelines in the software development process,” says Coetzer.
“Furthermore, Kubernetes as an orchestration engine lends itself greatly to ideals instilled in microservices architecture, and as a result developers are thinking differently around how applications are built to scale and tolerate service failure in production. Separation of responsibilities means rethinking where stateful data resides and how stateless applications interact with one another.”
When done right, containerisation contributes towards the bottom line through reduced infrastructure costs, fewer workflow interruptions, and faster development and delivery of products, features and upgrades. In the end it ensures better employee and customer satisfaction, which is the ultimate goal of any organisation looking to grow sustainably.