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Should You Use Containers?

DZone's Guide to

Should You Use Containers?

When should you use a container versus a VM? Let's run through the benefits of containers to see if and how they fit into your ecosystem.

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With the emergence of high-end technologies gradually taking over conventional systems, the need for virtualization has gained immense popularity over the years. Moreover, the emergence of cloud computing has acted as a catalyst behind the industry-wide adoption of this technology.

Containerization is an old concept where applications are encapsulated inside a container with its own operating environment, making it platform-independent and more accessible at the same time. Toda,y all the pinnacle vendors of cloud like AWS, Google, Microsoft, etc., are providing cloud containerization services. 

Potentials Benefits of Containerization

The technology of containerization gained momentum after Docker launched its open-source container technology and AWS started providing container services supported by Docker. The benefits harnessed from this technology are:

Platform independence: An application that is encapsulated with all of its dependencies into a container is able to run on any machine, making it a highly portable technology.

Rewriting code is not required: One of the prime benefits a company can harvest is that developers need not write code all over again for every platform the container is going to run on. This saves time, money, and effort all at the same time.

Best suited for in-house application development: Containerization of applications is best suited for companies that develop in-house applications. This helps in porting the applications and makes sure that these will function in production as it used to during development.

Dividing any application: Containerization not only helps divide in-house applications, but any kind of application can be successfully divided into microservices, making the entire system lot faster than before.

Lightweight in nature: Containers are quite light-weighted as in order to port an application the entire operating system needs not to be encapsulated along with it. It is just the application that goes inside the container which makes it lesser complicated and light-weighted as well.

Containerization vs. Virtualization

The description above about containerization sounds pretty similar to virtualization, right? It is true that this concept has emerged from virtualization, but there is a huge difference between these two. Let's compare them:

Application abstraction

Hardware abstraction

Virtualizes the OS

Virtualizes hardware

Every container shares the same base underlying OS

Every VM has its own hardware, application, and OS

Runs on top of the host OS

Runs on top of hypervisor installed on a bare-metal system

Lighter overhead

Heavy overhead


While virtualization has provided the abstraction of a machine, you can call containers a moderately upgraded version of VMs.

Container Implementation Challenges

With the latest infusion of an open-source platform by Docker, this technology has grabbed a lot of attention because of the benefits achieved by its implementation. However, there are certain challenges that are faced during deployment.

One OS crash fails the entire system: Containers are considered to be resource efficient, as all the containers access the same OS. However, this provision makes the entire system prone to failure — a single crash in the OS will cause all the containers to crash.

Compatibility issues: Migrating containers can be a tedious task, as you face a challenge if the server OS is not compatible, which limits its migrations ability.

Not suitable for all tasks: Containerization is better suited for applications that are made of small chunks of applications and can be divided into microservices. However, some applications are not formed in this pattern, and so it is not possible to subdivide. Still, these applications can be successfully run on virtual machines.

How to Decide if You Should Implement Containers

Your decision depends purely on your requirements. If you need to run several instances of a single application, then implementing containers can be useful. But if you want to run multiple applications, then you should go for VMs.

If you have to run just one operating system, then containers can be beneficial. At the same time, if you want the freedom of running any operating system, then VMs can be the better option for you. Though these differences may make you consider implementing both technologies, these can co-exist on a single system serving different purposes inside a firm.

Despite all the loopholes, this emerging technology has managed to capture the market where nearly 80% of organizations are using containers nowadays among which 68% believe that they are achieving what they had expected.
— ClusterHQ

ClusterHQ goes on to say that 48% of the companies are using AWS. Meanwhile, Internal Data Centre is next with 28%, followed by Google Compute Engine with 7%.

However, this technology is still in its nascent stage, setting space for more cutting-edge technologies to revolutionize the digital economy altogether.

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Topics:
cloud ,containerization ,virtual machine ,app deployment

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