Container technology has emerged as the preferred deployment platform due to its characteristics. Read through to learn the importance of containers, their benefits, and their role in microservice deployments.
As computing evolved to deployments in native-cloud and serverless architecture, there was a
need for lighter software applications that could be:
- Deployable independently, and be maintained and tested by smaller teams
- Coupled loosely with other business applications and processes
These requirements led to the concept of microservices, also known as the microservice
architecture. This is an architectural style that structures an application as a collection
of services that are fine-grained and the protocols are lightweight. Microservices enabled
legacy technology solution stacks to be broken into smaller logical units/parts that can run
independently on cloud environments, allowing these complex applications to be quickly
tested and reliably deployed.
Microservices, being loosely coupled and independently deployable as smaller services, needed
a platform that supported lightweight deployable capabilities.
Benefits of containers
Container technology emerged as the preferred deployment platform for microservices due to
characteristics, like being light, modular, and portable:
- Light – A container encapsulates the microservice (Layer 5 in the graphic) that
are fine-grained (providing specific code for specific business services), and that
include specific messaging protocols (Layer 4 in the graphic) relevant to the specific
business service. This makes a container light, starting at only few tens of megabytes
in size. This light deployment allows multiple containers and, in turn, microservices to
be hosted by one physical machine. As microservices are light, they do not need to be
continuously loaded onto computing resources, and can be initialized immediately when
needed, as well as be available for just-in-time use, and shutdown when not in use.
- Modular – Since one container could run a database while another could run an
application front end, a complex application can be split into modules across
containers. This modular approach aligns container as a platform for the microservices
architecture approach. The modular approach eases management of individual modules in a
complex application, and changes in a module can be made without rebuilding the entire
- Portable – Containers are OS independent, as they share the machine OS kernel
through the platform (Layer 3 - Container Runtime in the graphic). While this allows
portability across devices for organizations, such as developer laptop to on-premise
private data center, to private and public cloud environments. Portability can be
limited to an extent by the container platform’s OS compatibility. For example, Red Hat
OpenShift supports only containers with Linux images. Additionally, specific container
platforms may not always be backward and forward compatible with updates and new
releases in OS.
DevOps / CI-CD as drivers for container adoptions
Container and microservices adoption have been led by organizations that have transitioned to
modern development and application patterns like DevOps and CI/CD as the way to build,
release, and run software.
As the concept of microservices emerged, enabling legacy technology solution stacks to be
broken into smaller logical units/parts that ran independently on cloud environments; these
loosely coupled and independently deployable smaller services, needed a platform that
supported lightweight deployable capabilities. Container technology emerged as the preferred
deployment platform for microservices due to characteristics like being – light, modular,
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