How to implement a resilient container strategy

A resilient container strategy needs scalability, reliability, reduced downtime, and automated processes. Learn how to do it with Docker and Kubernetes.

Fidel Chaves
10 min read

What is container management, and why is it important?

Software containers are one of the most outstanding innovations in recent years in the technological field. These developments have radically changed how to deploy applications and have set off a new era for developers. Containers are gaining popularity daily as enterprises begin to use DevOps. But managing large numbers of containers requires specific software and, therefore, skills and training.

 

You probably know real containers, the ones used to ship goods—the symbol of globalization. Well, the name carried over the digital world. Software containers perform a similar function in the digital universe: they hold every dependency that an application needs to be executed, such as code, system libraries, the environment, or any other configuration.

 

Containers enable running an application anywhere, which solves the problem of having to move the application to and from different environments, such as development or production. All the necessary software is packaged in containers, an innovation that has influenced the last few years in the industry and one on which Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, IBM, and Red Hat, among other companies, have placed heavy bets.

 

Agility, which is an essential feature of any outstanding CICD pipeline, has a direct impact on the software production cycle. Packaged applications inside containers have optimized the testing processes applied by IT departments, which results in resources used more efficiently and, therefore, costs reduced.

 

Moving from a server-based architecture to one based on containers is a solution that results in companies having multiple benefits. The use of containers has boomed and not precisely because it is some crazy trend, but because it presents programmers with a series of remarkable advantages for the development, deployment, and maintenance of software applications.

 

Among its several benefits, containers make it possible to optimize resources and shorten development process times. Portability, scalability, and speed are three of the main attributes that containers bring to IT teams. But being able to launch projects using this leading technology requires solving a significant issue first: its management. For that purpose, several tools make up a compelling catalog to bring into any project.

Docker

A tool to package software into a container to run reliably in any environment, Docker solves the problem of simulating the environment your software needs separately from the host machine.That can also be made with a virtual machine, but it has proved to be slower and cumbersome. Instead of virtualizing hardware, containers only virtualize the OS, giving you that much-desired speed and efficiency.

 

Since its release in 2013, Docker quickly became the most popular software for containers, as it allowed developers to create, run and scale their containerized applications. With this open-source software platform, applications can run reliably anywhere, with some additional concrete advantages. Docker enables delivering code faster and transferring it smoothly, resulting in the standardization of application operations and saving money following resources optimization.

 

Three fundamental elements:

 

  • Dockerfile: DNA -> code, tells Docker how to build an image.
  • Image: an immutable snapshot of your software with all its dependencies.
  • Container: the actual software running in the real world.

Docker vs. Podman: which is better to run containers?

If you have been reading our articles, you know that we do not marry specific technologies—we thrive in innovation. Up until now, Docker has been considered the king of containers, but, of course, there is a contender: Podman. Will Podman be able to overthrow it? Let's compare them.

 

As containers emerged, Docker quickly burst on the scene and started gaining popularity. This open-source platform has enabled development teams, especially those that have adopted the DevOps-centered workflow, to achieve highly efficient software deployment and deliveries. Docker has quickly become a must-have tool to manage containers, but it’s not the only one. The IT giant Red Hat has brought in a competitor: Podman.

Why use Docker?

Born in the open-source community, Docker allows developers to create, test, and deploy applications. It is installed on each server and offers simple commands to create, run or stop containers. Not only does it allow for cost optimization, but it also has some key features.

Standardization

Docker guarantees consistency throughout every application development and deployment process, as it standardizes the environment on which it is executed. The platform enables development, testing, and production environments to replicate without having to share massive files.

Easy deployment

By using templates, developers can make the most out of shared workflows and focus on the code exclusively without spending lots of time in other configurations.

Speed

Docker can start in just a matter of seconds since it does not need to boot an operating system as in virtual machines.

Multicloud platforms

Large cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Compute Platform (GCP), have adopted Docker and Kubernetes and offer individual support.

What can Podman offer?

Podman comes forth as a powerful alternative to the popularity of Docker. What does it offer? First, engineers at Red Hat mention its ease of use and migration speed. Docker users are not required to learn how to manage Podman. Just by creating an alias for the Podman command, they can continue working, as usual...talk about changing horses in the middle of the race.

 

Managing containers in a decentralized way is another difference between Podman and Docker. Podman uses a single service, Daemon, to handle all containers, from execution to storage to networking. But this can be a drawback if the service stops working. Podman, which does not require global services, solves this by decentralizing every component used in container management.

 

Another difference is that Podman not only runs containers, but it can also run pods (that’s basic etymology right there), which are the minimum units of measurement offered by Kubernetes, where there can be one or more containers. Podman also uses a specific tool, Buildah, to inspect and manage OCI-type images without having to download them.

 

We have seen the differences between both systems, but a stowaway just infiltrated my last paragraph. Who is Kubernetes?

What is container orchestration?

Docker was introduced to facilitate the packaging of software in containers, but with a growing number of applications in the system, it just doesn't make the cut anymore. When management becomes increasingly complex, technology is needed to monitor and coordinate the various services distributed.

 

To provide a tool that would enable managing containerized workloads from anywhere, Google launched Kubernetes in 2015, an open-source system for orchestrating containers automatically, offering reliability and cutting back times, a valuable benefit for organizations.

 

Management requires organizing many software containers, which needs a specific tool to automate the deployment, administration, scaling, networking, and availability of applications. Kubernetes handles the management of the application status, load balancing, and hardware resource allocation performed by the development manager.

Why is container management important?

Managing many containers at the same time is too complex for an IT team to carry out. That is why services that automate orchestration and network management, as well as container loading and testing (among other processes), have sprung up. We have already discussed the importance of automation and how to save time with DevOps; container management is a step more along those lines.

 

A good strategy for container management can help you with scalability and reduce downtime. With the help of an automated orchestrator, you can provide a reliable service with enough flexibility to change under stress conditions such as sales, presentations, or any other big event.

 

A word of caution: managing a container network with platforms such as Kubernetes or Apache Mesos involves hours of hard work to install and set up. The team in charge of this implementation must be skilled and trained enough to prevent mistakes from happening at a later time. As with many new technologies, their misuse could be a burden in the long run. Social media was about connecting with the people we love. Remember those times? I should call my grandma.

Why use Kubernetes: 5 reasons

Google was the first company to spot the need to optimize its component management to grow worldwide. That was why Google developed Borg (later, Omega), and after nearly a decade of internal testing, Kubernetes was launched as an open-source system on a massive scale in 2015. Since then, Kubernetes has gained ground as an essential partner to deploy distributed applications.

 

Today, the use of containers has become one of the most frequent mechanisms for packaging and distributing software on any server. One task developers have to fulfill every day at the production stages is managing several containers simultaneously, which is no easy feat if done manually. Here is where Kubernetes, also known as K8s, steps in.

 

Kubernetes (κυβερνήτης, Greek for pilot or governor, and the root of cybernetics. Yeah, etymology!) works as the captain of your ship, the orchestrator of your containers. This open-source platform enables automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. But, what are its main advantages?

#1 Flexibility

Kubernetes was developed to run everywhere: it can be executed on the local infrastructure and in private, public, or hybrid clouds, as well. In the current scenario where most companies are turning to multi-cloud platforms, this virtue of Kubernetes stands out. In addition, when rehosting or refactoring is needed, Kubernetes offers solutions for companies not to deal with a cloud environment.

#2 Scalability

Kubernetes works as a management system that can scale an application and its infrastructure with every workload increase and downscale them when the workload is reduced.

#3 Product launch times

With its model, software development is structured in small work teams instead of larger units. These reduced groups, as a result, can focus on a single microservice, which leads to faster and more agile deployments.

#4 Cost optimization

Kubernetes is designed to make the best use of resources by identifying, deactivating machines not being used, and promoting cost reduction. To sum up, it autonomously guarantees that no more resources than necessary are in use.

#5 Security

Applications cover several containers which, in turn, must be deployed in multiple server hosts. Security for these containers is multilayered and can be complex to handle. Kubernetes' management capabilities also contribute to this aspect since it can help organize large-scale workloads.

 

Kubernetes' structure makes it possible to design application services covering several containers, then group those containers into clusters and manage them over time. K8s eliminates the need to run manual processes involved in the deployment and scalability of containerized applications. That not only helps have smoother processes but also more secure ones. For many companies, these features translate into greater productivity, reliability, and stability; Kubernetes represents a long-term solution to projects several years ahead.

 

Our client, TEDxRíodelaPlata, is a renowned nonprofit that organizes talks under a TEDx license. Technology, Entertainment, and Design are the three pillars that gave TED its name. Nowadays, it is a global community to share innovative ideas covering a wide range of topics. Attendance at a TED conference is by registration or application. However, TEDxRíodelaPlata occasionally sets up raffles for tickets. We leveraged Docker to scale their website performance on demand and manage peaks in traffic. What is more, by implementing Docker, turnover significantly increased.

 

At Awkbit, we jumped aboard the hype train (or ship?) of Docker and Kubernetes. While we go beyond these specific technologies, we notice the face value of using containers and their orchestration. In our quest for efficiency, the other side of the coin of laziness, we always choose tools that provide reliability, scalability, reduced downtime, and the possibility of automation. Are you in need of software container management? Would you like to know more about Docker or Kubernetes?

Reach Out!

Sources & further reading