Community Blog What Is Container Technology

What Is Container Technology

The Container is a lightweight, operating system-level virtualization technology that allows us to run applications and their dependencies in the process of resource isolation.

Container Technology Overview

The Container is a lightweight, operating system-level virtualization technology that allows us to run applications and their dependencies in the process of resource isolation. All the necessary components required to run the application are packaged into a single image, which can be reused. When the image is running, it runs in an independent environment and does not share the memory, CPU, or disk of the host operating system with other applications. This ensures that the processes inside the container will not affect any processes outside the container.

The Difference Between a Virtual Machine and a Container

Virtual machines usually include the entire operating system and applications. A hypervisor running with them is also needed to control the virtual machine.

Because they include the operating system, their size is a few gigabytes (1 gigabyte = 1GB). One disadvantage of using virtual machines is that they take several minutes to start the operating system and initialize the applications they host. On the other hand, containers are lightweight, mostly megabytes (1 megabyte = 1MB) in size. The performance of the container is better than that of the virtual machine, and it can be started immediately.

What Problem Does the Container Solve

When the application computing environment changes, many problems will arise. It is possible that the developer pushes the code from the development environment to the test environment before continuing. For example, Developers write application code in Windows, but the upper environment (test, stage, or product) is based on Linux. In this case, some functions may stop working when the operating system changes. So, basically, when the supporting software environment is different, the probability of intermittent failure will be higher.

The Advantages of Containers

  • Agile environment: The biggest advantage of container technology is faster than creating VM (virtual machine) instances. Their lightweight has less overhead in terms of performance and space.
  • Improve productivity: Containers improve developer productivity by eliminating cross-service dependencies and conflicts. Each container can be seen as a different microservice, so it can be upgraded independently without considering their synchronization.
  • Version control: Each image of the container can be version controlled, so you can track different versions of the container, pay attention to the differences between versions, etc.
  • Portability of the computing environment: The container encapsulates all the relevant details necessary to run the application, such as application dependencies and operating system. This helps simplify the portability of container images from one environment to another. For example, the same image can be used to run in a Windows/Linux or dev (production)/test/stage environment.
  • Standardization: Most containers are based on open standards and can run on all major Linux distributions, Microsoft, etc.
  • Security: The container isolates the process of one container from another container and the underlying infrastructure. Therefore, any upgrade or change in one container will not affect the other container.

The Disadvantages of Containers

  • Increased complexity: When multiple containers are used to run an application, the complexity factor also increases. Managing so many containers in a production environment will be a challenging task. Tools like Kubernetes and Mesos can be used to manage multiple containers.
  • Native Linux support: Most container technologies (such as Docker) are based on Linux containers (LXC). Therefore, compared with running these instances natively on Linux, running these containers in a Microsoft environment is a bit cumbersome, and their daily use will bring complicated problems.
  • Immature: Container technology is relatively new in the market, so time to market is slow. The number of resources available to developers is limited. If you encounter some problems, it may take some time to find a solution.

Related Blog

The Development Trends of Six Major Container Technologies in 2021

The survival and development of enterprises were uncertain throughout 2020. As a result of the ever-changing challenges, digital innovation capabilities are more important to enterprises than ever before.

During the pandemic, more enterprises have strengthened their beliefs and quickened their paces in cloud migration and digital transformation. They actively explore the implementation of cloud-native architecture transformation. During 2020 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival, Alibaba achieved a major breakthrough in cloud-native technologies for its core system. Based on the cloud-native architecture, enterprises can maximize cloud usage and focus on business developments. Developers can also improve development efficiency based on cloud-native technologies and products and focus more on business logic implementation. Cloud-native technologies represented by containers have become the easiest way to realize the value of the cloud.

A New Milestone for Alibaba Cloud's Container and Serverless Services

According to Gartner, container services have become mature and entered the mainstream market. More diversified container implementation scenarios in enterprises have emerged, and many container vendors have begun mergers and acquisitions. In order to provide container services to more industries, Gartner suggests that vendors should enrich various enterprise-level application image markets. Vendors should also increase support for Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) and implement various cloud deployments and management. In this report, with the exception of traditional dimensions such as Kubernetes support, container images, Serverless containers, and service mesh, the cluster deployment and management are added for assessment.

Alibaba Cloud is one of the first cloud service vendors in China to provide container services. Alibaba Cloud provides ACK Pro and ACR EE for enterprise-level large-scale production to meet the requirements for reliability and security. Alibaba Cloud also provides services for Serverless containers, machine learning, edge computing, and distributed clouds, which have been applied to enterprises in the Internet, new retail, education, healthcare, and other industries.

Cloud-Native Storage: Container Storage and Kubernetes Storage Volumes

This series of articles on cloud-native storage explains the concepts, features, requirements, principles, usage, and cases of cloud-native storage. It aims to explore the new opportunities and challenges of cloud-native storage technology. This article is the second in the series and explains the concepts of container storage. If you are not familiar with this concept, I suggest that you read the first article of this series, "Cloud-Native Storage: The Cornerstone of Cloud-Native Applications."

Related Product

Container Service for Kubernetes

Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK) integrates virtualization, storage, networking, and security capabilities. ACK allows you to deploy applications in high-performance and scalable containers and provides full lifecycle management of enterprise-class containerized applications.

Elastic Container Instance

Elastic Container Instance (ECI) is an agile and secure serverless container instance service. You can easily run containers without managing servers. Also, you only pay for the resources that have been consumed by the containers. ECI helps you focus on your business applications instead of managing infrastructure.

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