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Digital transformation: How container technology has made cloud adoption easier

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the container market will almost double in size and be worth $4.1 billion by 2022. A 2020 Gartner report also predicts that by 2023, more than 70% of all organisations will be using three or more ‘containerised’ applications. Jon Lucas, co-founder at Hyve Managed Hosting, explores what all the fuss is about.

Containerisation has become somewhat of a buzzword in boardrooms around the world, and with good reason. Businesses spend a great deal of money on software which they come to rely on and build processes around. Replacing that software when it becomes outdated or becomes a security liability can be prohibitively expensive, particularly if the application in question has been designed exclusively for a specific use case. 

Legacy applications can also present a barrier to cloud adoption, hampering businesses on their journey toward digital transformation and cloud maturity.

In some cases, businesses can operate almost exclusively in the cloud, yet fall back on their offline or locally hosted legacy applications to carry out critical business processes. It’s slow, cumbersome and creates any number of security flaws. Containerisation solves this problem. 

What is container technology? 

Containerisation is a complex technology designed to achieve a very simple goal. In essence, a container is a sealed and secure virtual lightweight runtime environment that is designed to host a particular application.

Containers are unique in that they not only host the application, but also host all of its dependencies, from code libraries right through to configuration files.

It’s possible to virtualise an entire operating system and run multiple workloads in a single instance of that OS, allowing businesses to carry on using legacy applications in a secure and more convenient way.

What’s more, a single server can host multiple containers due to their minuscule size – often only tens of megabytes. The ability to carry on running legacy software can save businesses a great deal of money, not to mention the savings in hardware and maintenance costs. 

Containerisation or virtualisation? 

When it comes to containerisation, one of the most common questions is, ‘why not just use a virtual machine?’ It’s a good question, but the answer is a multi-faceted one.

Before containers made their way onto the scene, virtual machines (VM) were the technology of choice for dealing with server capacity and compatibility. As the name suggests, a VM emulates the hardware of a physical machine with a complete operating system, making it easier to manage and deploy. 

However, VMs do have their disadvantages. Unlike containers, VMs always include an OS and a virtual copy of all of the hardware that the chosen OS usually requires, resulting in significantly higher memory and CPU usage.

The app development lifecycle is also made more complex by the required resources, not to mention the challenge of moving VMs between public and private cloud servers. VMs are useful and had their day in the sun, but containers are far more nimble when it comes to digital transformation and the fast-moving nature of cloud technology. 

Open-source container platforms

The fast deployment of applications is to everyone’s benefit, drastically improving the cloud ecosystem of which we’re all a part. To that end, most container management tools are open source, giving businesses a great deal of choice and freedom in how they pursue containerisation.

Docker emerged in 2013 and led to what could only be described as a boom in popularity. What made Docker unique was the fact that it used its own library which it called libcontainer and offered an entire ecosystem for container management.

Container managers like Kubernetes followed, which saw massive support from the likes of Docker. Today, more and more cloud vendors are offering container services powered by the likes of Kubernetes.

Containerisation is likely to continue picking up speed at a rapid pace as more and more businesses seek to move their operations onto the cloud.

It’s a fast, lightweight, affordable and effective way of shifting legacy application onto the cloud, making them incredibly secure and agile – two things that are going to become critically important as we move into 2021. 

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