In recent times, containerization has become very popular in the software development industry as a viable extension to virtualization. Simply put, it allows developers to create and deploy applications faster and is the easiest way to modernize legacy apps.
So, unlike these traditional methods where developers would develop applications for a specific platform, containerization allows them to develop once and deploy everywhere. This eliminates many of the issues and bugs that developers encounter when they want to develop an application for various platforms.
And this is especially important in a competitive market where getting a product out to customers as soon as possible is becoming increasingly important. Now, this is one major benefit of using containerization, but what are some other benefits developers enjoy when using containerization. Also, what are some of the challenges that developers face when using it?
In this post, we’ll look at these questions in more detail.
What Is Containerization?
Before looking at the benefits and challenges of containerization in more detail, it’s important to recap what containerization is. Traditionally, when developers wanted to develop an application and deploy it across platforms, they would use virtualization.
Here, they would set up a virtual machine where the application will run on. Despite this, they would still encounter issues and errors when transferring code to virtual machines or between operating systems.
Containerization effectively solves this problem by bundling the application code with all its configuration files, libraries, and dependencies in one container. As a result, developers can deploy this container on any host machine, and it can run across any platform without any issues.
Also, unlike virtual machines that each contain a full operating system, containers share the host operating system’s kernel and do not need a full operating system to run. As such, they use far fewer resources than traditional virtual machines and that’s why they’re often referred to as “lightweight.”
With that in mind, let’s now look at some benefits and challenges of containerization.
For developers and development teams that need to develop applications that run across various platforms or deployments whether it’s on-premises or in the cloud, containerization offers significant benefits. Some of these benefits include:
- Portability. Because a container contains everything needed for the application to run and abstracted away from the host operating system, it can be deployed consistently across any platform or operating system. This makes containers far more portable than virtual machines.
- Agility. Because developers can still use their usual developer tools and, largely due to Docker, a universal packaging approach, they can continue using agile practices and DevOps tools and processes. This allows them to develop and deploy applications faster.
- Speed. Because containers do not contain a full operating system and share the host machine’s operating system kernel, they do not have the same resource overheads as virtual machines. This drives higher server efficiencies and speeds up startup times because there is no operating system to boot.
- Fault tolerance. When using containerization, every container is isolated and operates independently of every other container. This simply means that a failure in one container does not affect the operation of the other containers. And when this happens, developers can identify and fix issues earlier while the remainder of the containers keep running. Ultimately, this reduces downtime.
- Efficiency. As stated above, containers share the host machine’s operating system kernel. As a result, containers are not only smaller and use far fewer resources than virtual machines, but they also start up faster. Because of this more containers can be run on the same server or cloud instance, which, in turn, saves costs. In addition, it also provides the capability to scale better compared to virtual machines.
- Security. Because containers are isolated from one another, they’re more secure because malicious code in one container can’t affect any of the other containers or the host system. Developers can also define specific security permissions that limit communications with unnecessary resources or automatically block unwanted components from entering containers.
- Ease of management. A container orchestration platform like Kubernetes can automate the installation, scaling, and management of containerized applications, workloads, and services. So, this makes container-based applications far easier to manage, monitor, update, and troubleshoot.
As with many other things, there are some challenges that developers experience when using and deploying containers. The recent 2020 Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Cloud Native Survey showed that development teams experience challenges in several aspects of containerization.
In terms of the survey, these challenges are:
- Complexity. 41% of development teams reported that complexity was their main challenge.
- Cultural changes with development. 41% of development teams also stated that cultural changes with development posed a challenge. Considering this percentage and the one above, complexity and cultural changes are the main challenges facing development teams.
- Security. 32% of development teams reported that security is a challenge for them.
- Storage. 29% of development teams reported storage as a challenge with containerization.
- Lack of training. 27% of development teams reported a lack of training as a challenge.
- Monitoring. 27% of development teams cited monitoring as the main challenge in containerization.
- Networking. Networking was cited as a challenge by 26% of development teams.
- Service mesh. 25% of development teams cited service mesh as a challenge.
- Logging. 22% of development teams reported logging as a challenge.
- Scaling deployments based on containers. 20% of development teams said that scaling their container-based deployments is a challenge.
- Difficulty in choosing the right platform. 14% of development teams had difficulty in choosing the right platform.
- Reliability. 12% of development teams cited reliability as a problem.
- Finding vendor support. 5% of development teams said that finding vendor support is a challenge for them with containerization.
The Bottom Line
Containerization offers development teams a variety of benefits, not least of all its portability and its capability to bring about significant efficiency improvements. Yet, for any development team that wants to enjoy the full benefits that containerization has to offer, there are some challenges they’ll need to overcome.
Hopefully, this post helped illustrate all the advantages that development teams will gain through containerization as well as the challenges they face.