What Are Containers and How Do They Work?

Containers are gaining momentum in the IT world. IT departments are using containers to enable continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) and to provide scalability, portability, and consistency for applications. Containers also help isolate workloads, contributing to robust data security policies.

A container is a standard package of software that can be moved from one computing environment to another. It contains everything needed to run an application, including libraries and other dependencies. When containers first appeared, they solved a problem that plagued developers and system administrators as they tried to get software to work consistently when moved from a developer’s laptop to a virtual environment or from development to production.

Containers use a combination https://container-hire.uk/ of Linux kernel features, such as cgroups and namespaces, to isolate software environments from each other and from the host environment. While not as robust as full virtualization, this isolation provides functional sandboxing and prevents conflicts that might happen between libraries and different versions of application code.

When compared to hardware virtualization with virtual machines, containers are lightweight and much more efficient because they only replicate what is necessary. Instead of creating a virtual operating system for each container, they operate as compartmentalized processes within the host’s kernel, which allows them to take advantage of the host’s processor and memory resources.

This approach is ideal for workloads that require a high level of performance and scalability. Data scientists, for example, deploy containers to optimize algorithmic training, a process that breaks a large data set into smaller chunks and runs algorithms on each of those pieces simultaneously to generate results more quickly.

The popularity of containers has sparked interest in microservice architecture, a design pattern that reduces complex applications to their component parts and uses containers to make those components easy to move between environments. Developers use a tool called Docker to programmatically define the contents of a container and then version, reproduce, share, and modify them just as they would source code for a computer program.

While there are many different tools available to manage containers, it is important for organizations to select the right platform for their needs. A platform should offer the functionality that best meets organizational requirements, such as providing a container registry and allowing users to change images while retaining their metadata and feature discovery. It should also support automation, which is critical for speeding up the image change and deployment process. The right platform can also integrate with other DevOps and security tools to streamline the entire workflow.