Containers are lightweight standalone software that ensure applications run quickly and efficiently on each computing environment. A form of software virtualization, a container can be used to run many things, this includes everything from software processes to microservices and large applications. They bundle everything an application needs to run; such as libraries, utilities and configuration files. They hold a kernel, a complete file system and the application itself which makes them portable. Previously, applications and workloads had to be rebuilt before being able to migrate to another environment. Containers solve this time-consuming challenge.
Creating and running containers necessitate three types of software:
- Builder: Technology that is used to build a container
- Engine: Technology that is used to run a container
- Orchestration: Technology that is used to deploy, manage, and scale containers
There’s a variety of benefits when it comes to deploying containers, these include:
- Portability: Container engines are highly portable and able to run on any operating system. This enables developers to write applications on any system they’d like. They can then deploy it on Mac, Linux or Windows once it’s ready.
- Resource Efficiency: Containers don’t require a separate operating system which means they use up less resources. Containers are kept small, only storing the needed kernel, libraries and files for the specific application. This makes it easier to run more containers than virtual machines (VMs) on a server.
- Effective Isolation: Containers run on the same server and use the same resources, however they have limited interaction with each other. This means that if one application crashes, it’s far less likely that others will be affected. They continue to run, uninterrupted without issues. This also helps with security
- Designed For Disposal: Quick to start up, they don’t have to be upgraded live, like a hard node in a data center. Instead it’s faster and easier to dispose of the container and replace it with a new one
- Reduced Total Cost Of Ownership: Containers allow many applications to be run on a single host, so the need for additional compute resources are minimized.
- Scalability: Containers allow developers to easily adapt application deployments through vertical and horizontal scaling. Horizontal elasticity allows for the number of application instances to decrease and increase. Resource costs are reduced by only running the containers that you need in real time.
- Improved Development: Containers eliminate environmental inconsistencies which makes testing and debugging easier. They ensure that applications can be run and work as designed which promotes an effective development process.
Organizations can use containers in multiple ways:
- Lift and shift existing applications into modern cloud architectures
- Easily isolate, deploy and scale using containers
- Provide support for continuous deployment and integration
- Ensure easy deployment for repetitive tasks
Although there are many platforms to perform the tasks above, for our NetOps Console servers, we choose to deploy Docker. An open source containerization platform, Docker provides a wide range of benefits, like ensuring software source code can be inspected and modified by anyone. It also allows for the development and delivery of software in packages, also known as containers. Each Docker container targets a specific application. This enables enterprises to build distributed applications while using processes they they’ve had in place. Applications can be shipped with necessary dependencies in one package enabling applications to run smoothly in any kind of environment. Docker allows developers to use whatever tools, stacks and environments they’d like, simplifying the roll out of applications across multiple systems.
- Provides a CLI based workflow to make building, sharing and running containerized applications available to developers
- Enables developers to code and test locally
- Ensures consistency between development and production
One of the most frequent questions about Docker is how does it differ from a VM? In the past, VMs have really been the go to with cloud infrastructure. Acting similar to a computer, it is an isolated computing environment that’s created by taking resources from a machine. It makes it possible to run what appear to be many different computers on hardware, however it’s actually one just one computer. Docker containers are a more lightweight, economical and scalable alternative. Operating system support, security and portability are a few of their significant differences. All that containers need to run is just enough of an OS to support programs, libraries and system resources to run a specific program. This means that you can run more containers at a lower cost vs. traditional virtual machines.
NetOps Console Servers and Docker Containers
Now to dive a little deeper into Docker and our NetOps Console Servers. Enterprises are becoming increasingly software oriented. This has increased the need for IT organizations to have the ability to build versatile applications that can run across multiple channels at the edge. Responsible for network infrastructure, NetOps teams must ensure uptime. A very dynamic role, their every day tasks could range from managing tickets to resolving any network issues that may occur. To properly manage all of that infrastructure, most times remotely, it’s critical that their network architectures are software-defined, application-aware and automated. Containers provide them with the ability to meet accelerated deployment and mobility demands. When building the NetOps Console servers, we took that need into consideration. That’s why it has an x86 platform that was specifically designed to run Docker containers, known as the industry standard, because they have everything needed for an application to run.
NetOps Console Server Capabilities
Opengear provides a platform which is dedicated to supporting containerized applications and can be used for management purposes. In many cases, NetOps teams have to ask for space in a production application server. This can cause many challenges due to multiple applications running on the same platform. The NetOps Console servers provide an always on management plane, that is there on day one and when things go wrong in the production network.
Check back in for other blogs in this series that discusses Trusted Platform Modules and continued network management success.