An SME guide to containers
Over the past few years, container technology has grown from an emerging trend to a well-established market, with some reports indicating that more than half of Fortune 100 companies have deployed them. Indeed, 451 Research predicts that the applications container market will be worth more than $4.3 billion in 2022.
However, many small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are yet to reap the benefits of this technology due to lack of resources.
Yet, they represent an important option for SMEs who value infrastructure agility, versatility and performance.
Containers fulfil an increasingly popular need in that they virtualise operating systems to separate application code from the environment in which it runs, so that it can be deployed anywhere.
This separation allows container-based applications to be deployed consistently with ease – whether the target environment is in a data centre, public cloud or a developer’s personal laptop.
For instance, containers give developers the ability to create predictable environments that are isolated from other applications.
This isolation is beneficial if anything goes wrong in the container, as it will only affect the individual container rather than the whole VM or server.
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Containers are often compared with virtual machines (VMs). VMs work with a guest operating system (OS), such as Windows or Linux, running on top of a host OS with virtualised access to the hardware.
But with containers, instead of virtualising the underlying hardware, they virtualise the OS, so that each individual container accommodates only the application and its libraries and dependencies.
A Choice of Container Platforms
A key consideration for any organisation when looking to deploy containers will be ‘what are my options?’ Docker is the most popular open-source platform that really put containers on the map. Docker’s competitors include AWS ECS/EKS, rkt and OpenVZ, but Docker remains the market leader.
The platform works by creating images of software programs and applications, and packing them into Docker containers.
These containers include all the parts the program needs in order to run correctly. The Docker platform contains a special OS that the containers run on, but this is not the same as a normal OS – it is a much lighter option, making it more portable and easier to work with.
Whilst Docker began the packaging and distributing of containerised applications, it highlighted a problem – how would the containers be scheduled, coordinated, or upgraded without interruption of service?
As a result, solutions for organising containers began to surface, such as Kubernetes, a container orchestrator developed and introduced by Google in 2014. It quickly became the market leader and the standardised means of deploying distributed applications.
SME Deployment Options
For SMEs who are concerned about managing this cutting-edge, trending technology on their own, Managed Service Providers (MSP) can offer their expertise and services in the deployment and smooth running of application containers, acting as an extension of the SME’s existing IT team.
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This approach enables SMEs to benefit from containers in a variety of ways. Those running on-premise infrastructure, for instance, can implement a container platform that runs on managed infrastructure.
Working with an experienced MSP will often mean additional features are included as part of the service package, such as providing users with an easy-to-use interface, together with deployment, load balancing and clustering support.
By opting for a high availability private cloud instance platform, container hosting takes the risk and security concerns out of shared containers and provides a fully managed platform.
This combines daily management of the containers, backed by the service and support for running DevOps integration between development and production environments.
As containers continue to grow in prominence, they also bring another wave of next technology for resource-strapped IT teams to learn and manage.
Adopting a hosted container platform enables SMEs to tap into the benefits of container technology with a trusted partner who can simplify the solution and offer support and guidance from initial setup through day-to-day management.
In addition, MSPs will often also provide virtual machines, cloud and container-based hosting infrastructures, giving users the flexibility to decide which platform is best suited for each workload – from databases to web servers and applications.
This combination of infrastructure and services enables customers to take advantage of ‘best in breed’ technology, with superior support and the reassurance that their assets are running on the best platform from a cost, performance and security perspective.
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