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Three apps in which Docker containers really shine

Docker containers offer a variety of benefits. But apply the software to these three application types to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Docker container software garnered a lot of attention in 2014 from tech giants and the enterprise alike. But, as container curiosity shifts to real-world implementation, the question becomes: Which applications benefit the most from Docker's technology?

In general, Docker containers benefit three application types:

  1. Applications that need to run on more than one cloud
  2. Applications that use microservices
  3. Applications that benefit from DevOps

Docker containers are the same, but different

Docker containers are not unlike other container technologies. However, Docker bundles key application components into a single container, which also makes these containers portable between different platforms and clouds. As a result, Docker is ideal for applications that need to run across various environments.

Previously, portability was a pain point for cloud-based platforms. But because Docker provides both the architecture and technology to enable portability, most major public cloud providers are on board. With Docker containers, the responsibility to provide portability shifts from cloud providers to developers.

Docker also benefits applications that use microservices, which are decomposed applications broken into smaller, purpose-built services. These services interact using common REST APIs. Developers using a fully encapsulated Docker container can create a more efficient distribution model for microservices-enabled applications.

But what exactly does that mean? Developers and architects can build applications that run on multiple platforms, as well as both produce and consume microservices. Developers can use this architecture to create distributed applications, where the application containers that produce and consume microservices can be both distributed and autonomous.

Finally, applications that benefit from DevOps processes typically benefit from Docker, as well. Docker allows developers to work inside the containers, while the operations team simultaneously works outside them.

Docker has its perks for developers

Developers also gain agility with Docker. There is an abstraction between the application and the underlying host platform. Therefore, developers can quickly build, change or deploy new and existing applications without worrying about required platform services. Docker applications run similarly in development, testing and production.

Docker's core advantage is encapsulating an entire application. Therefore, within DevOps, Docker eliminates the concern of missing dependencies or bugs due to differences in the underlying operating system and platform.

The IT world will continue to move towards Docker-based development for a number of reasons. However, Docker is not a panacea. Its container technology enables new ways of deploying and running applications. And while it offers many advantages, Docker containers are not ideal for every application. Before adopting the technology, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of which environments do -- and don't -- benefit from Docker.

About the author:
David "Dave" S. Linthicum is senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners and an internationally recognized cloud industry expert and thought leader. He is the author or co-author of 13 books on computing, including the best-selling Enterprise Application Integration. Linthicum keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, enterprise application integration and enterprise architecture.

His latest book is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. His industry experience includes tenures as chief technology officer and CEO of several successful software companies and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.

Next Steps

Microsoft joins the growing Docker movement

What's behind all the AWS, Docker container hype?

Docker security concerns to remember

Do app containers assist with cloud management?

Docker brings private and public cloud compatibility with Azure

This was last published in February 2015

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Does your organization use Docker containers? Why or why not?
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We are not using Docker at this time. We've only recently started discussions about the benefits and obstacles of using containers for some of our services rather than a full-blown VM. Security is not too much of a factor at this point, but we are curious to see how the ecosystem grows to fill the current gaps in technology, especially storage and orchestration.
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Everyone seems to be taking on the innovation of Docker containers. Docker is a technology that Linux, Microsoft, and many other software companies embrace. They contain shared operating systems, which is perfect for us--it is a shell with the application, dropping the unneeded 99.9% VM junk.

That does not mean Docker containers are flawless, many businesses are not taking on the technology, but everyone is watching for it to prove itself over time.
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The type of applications that benefit most docker containers are those that run on more than one cloud, use micro-services and can benefit from DevOps.
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Our organization uses docker containers to allow us to spin up pre-configured states of machines for testing purposes. Many of the steps we need to do are identical up to a point, so repeating al of those steps each time we run to run a series of tests can consumes several hours a day. By using docker containers, we condense the 80% of steps that are repeated to a single process that is duplicated in parallel, and then focus on just those steps needed to get us to an updated system state. The time savings thus far have been substantial.
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