Containers are the future of DevOps shops. They're highly portable, light on resources and, with some careful configuration, scale elastically from just a few to a few thousand.
But the knowledge and time necessary to master application container deployment and management can be prohibitive for many organizations. Enter containers as a service (CaaS) providers -- many of which are well-known public cloud vendors -- that take care of all the back-end complications. For a price, organizations can benefit from containers without suffering the overhead.
IT teams that put containers in cloud environments share resources with every other organization that uses that CaaS platform, which raises security and isolation concerns of multi-tenancy. Users argue that the payoff is significantly higher than the risk.
The three best-known containers-as-a-service providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft, but the CaaS market is bigger than those giants; products from Rancher, OpenStack and IBM, among others, support their fair share of container adopters.
1Containers can be a service-
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
Application containerization has a wealth of benefits, from high portability to faster deployments and beyond. Cloud providers offer more than just hosting; organizations can forego container environment setup woes through a containers-as-a-service provider's platform.
Containers as a service saves an organization from the complexities of setting up the infrastructure and management tooling for application containers. Cloud providers update the tools, container images and repositories as necessary. However, CaaS can also be difficult to integrate into existing systems, and security can be tricky to navigate. Continue Reading
Ask these important questions: Should you host containers on premises, in the cloud or some mix of both? How much component control is necessary? For example, is your organization willing to be relegated to one orchestration service or prefer to choose its own? Is the organization willing to tie itself to a specific Linux distro? Continue Reading
Containers are highly portable because they are stateless and easily created and destroyed, but the applications they host often are not stateless. This complication requires a storage plan. Each cloud hosting service has its own integrated storage service, and these differences often snag containers that would otherwise move from one place to another. Continue Reading
It can be difficult, or even impossible, to adapt existing governance and security policies to containers. The first step is to determine where applications are vulnerable after containerization. A CaaS provider makes the subsequent steps simpler and clearer with microservices that maintain application integrity while strengthening the security footprint. Continue Reading
Containers, providers and platforms, oh my
Among containers, cloud providers and management tools, there are a lot of faces at this party. This quick list will keep all those conversations straight.
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3Windows avoids container panes-
Microsoft Azure doesn't leave container users feeling blue
Microsoft Azure is one of the big three containers-as-a-service providers and is key for many users who want to containerize application workloads. But Azure isn't just for Windows users: One in three VMs hosted on Microsoft Azure runs Linux. Docker partnered with Microsoft in 2016 to develop Windows-native containers. Azure Container Service (AKS) helped Microsoft grow into a top containers-as-a-service provider among a wider customer base than strictly Windows shops.
Microsoft Azure's structure is built on Docker and Apache Mesos, the latter of which provides tools for job scheduling and container management and deployment. Mesos kernels operate in much the same way as Linux kernels, which makes Azure highly scalable and a suitable option for organizations with large applications in containers. Continue Reading
Microsoft Azure offers Azure Container Instances (ACI) alongside AKS, and which of the two an organization should use depends entirely upon the application. Applications with several services hosted in a large number of containers are better off in AKS, running on a small cluster of VMs and a container orchestrator. Small applications or test environments that need only a few containers can make economical use of ACI. Continue Reading
AKS is fault-tolerant and enables some orchestration tool flexibility. Kubernetes is the most popular container orchestrator, but the implementation process takes a little work. Continue Reading
To increase the compatibility and usability of Kubernetes on Microsoft's Azure container platform, Microsoft acquired Deis, a company that has played a significant role in the development of Kubernetes services. This buy marked an important step forward for organizations that rely on Microsoft technologies. Continue Reading
4Page one search results: GKE-
Containerization services? Try Googling that
Google's contributions to the containerization space have helped propel the technology toward general adoption beyond the bleeding edge, and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), formerly Google Container Engine, has made strides.
While Google's tools and services have made container adoption easier and more appealing to organizations, interest in its GKE has lagged. In a play to attract more attention, the tech industry giant developed automatic upgrades and patches so that users don't divert their time and effort from other tasks. Continue Reading
Google integrated machine learning into its container platform. The inclusion fuels its host of services, from container orchestration to security, multiregional storage and AI. Because the machine learning capabilities are built into Google's cloud platform, GKE reaps the benefits. Continue Reading
Organizations that want to move to the cloud must still contend with applications that can't leave the owned data center, either for compliance or architectural reasons. These organizations need some sort of hybrid cloud setup. Google established a partnership with Nutanix in 2017 to enable organizations to manage both on-premises and cloud applications through one interface. Continue Reading
5Get it on Amazon-
Go all in on AWS
Amazon Web Services is one of the most well-known cloud services. Users had better be happy to rely on the platform, because its container services are designed to prevent them from spending money elsewhere. With enough market pressure, however, Amazon is backing down from its territorial tools and building in compatibility with other software.
Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) is a native scalable Docker environment that stands in for external clustering services, thereby eliminating any compatibility issues -- but organizations are restricted to the AWS platform. Differences between ECS and other container orchestration tools leave IT teams with high-priority considerations before committing to any option. Continue Reading
AWS has joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and announced Kubernetes support, despite efforts to develop and offer proprietary services to cover all aspects of the container environment. Users hope the AWS commitment to upstream Kubernetes will improve integration, not interrupt the way they already use the orchestration tool. Continue Reading
AWS rolled out additional container products at re:Invent 2017. Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) manages container clusters, disaster recovery and updates. But another new tool called Fargate could render orchestration obsolete for some organizations. Continue Reading
A partnership between Red Hat and AWS enables OpenShift containers to run on AWS, as well as Red Hat users to run some AWS services on premises, which broadens AWS' hybrid cloud offerings. Still, many organizations find OpenShift difficult to implement, and there's a shortage of admins with the skills and experience to run it. Continue Reading
6Enough CaaS space to share-
Expand the CaaS lunch table
AWS, Azure and GKE are the containers-as-a-service provider options that get the most attention, but they aren't the only ones. Organizations that aren't sure the leaders fit their needs have a few other options to assess.
OpenStack offers Magnum, a container project to run Docker containers, as well as a DIY option that enables users to build their own setup on top of OpenStack on either bare metal or VMs. The Ocata release of OpenStack broadened its range of services, but even so, setbacks have OpenStack struggling to stack up to the big three CaaS competitors. Continue Reading
OpenStack is the basis for a lot of organizations' private clouds, and while the integration of Kubernetes can improve ease of use, OpenStack is still more complex than many pros have the resources to master. Some users look at the pairing and wonder if OpenStack even has a place in the future picture. Continue Reading
IBM Cloud Private is designed to bring the breadth of cloud, containerization and microservices benefits via a Kubernetes-based platform to on-premises data centers. Although other providers, such as Microsoft Azure, are in this space, IBM sets its offering apart through strong middleware and enterprise product positioning. Continue Reading
7Explore CaaS' moving parts-
Moves by Docker, Kubernetes
Docker and Kubernetes are rapidly evolving container players, and that evolution has put them closer together than ever before. It has also spurred an ecosystem around the technologies.
Docker offers a container orchestration service with Docker swarm mode, which evolved from a separate tool to part of Docker Engine. As of late 2017, however, Docker also offers native support for Kubernetes, cementing the third-party technology as the industry-leading orchestration tool. Continue Reading
With tandem security additions, such as role-based access control and policy-based automation, Docker Enterprise Edition users can run containers on a mix of OSes and platforms. This makes legacy application modernization significantly easier and broadens the container platform's appeal for security-focused organizations. Continue Reading
Kubernetes monitoring is maturing with the 2.0 release of Prometheus, an adjacent open source project that tracks instances within the Kubernetes architecture. Prometheus' operation pattern informs developers on application performance improvements, rather than troubleshooting, which enables Kubernetes to better manage applications in any compatible containers-as-a-service platform. Continue Reading
Rancher replaced its internal Cattle container orchestration service with a native Kubernetes integration. Consequently, Rancher is better able to implement hybrid cloud services and can centralize cluster management, regardless of differentiated Kubernetes versions and distributions. Continue Reading