There’s a reason why the cloud world is moving towards the concept of containers to run their applications and workloads. Even on AWS, a notable trend can be observed with developers opting for ECS.
EC2 instances still reign supreme, yes, but the landscape is fast changing.
Developers are rapidly taking a liking to containers, with enterprises in particular embracing the technology at an explosive pace. And that’s simply due to the fact that containerization brings along its unique set of benefits that virtual machines, by their very nature, cannot provide.
Here’s a short rundown of the benefits of using containers to build your cloud workloads.
Without doubt, the immediate benefit of using containers in the cloud is portability. The fact that containers break up the apps into smaller, more manageable packages of code, each bundled with the basic system software, and capable of running independently, sets them apart.
This also means that programmers do not have to rewrite the code for each new OS and cloud platform.
But the biggest benefit is in the creation of an agile infrastructure. Companies, in particular, can properly optimize their cloud footprint if they use containers the right way. The operational simplicity, easy application scaling, and the ability to move containers from one cloud provider to another are all distinct advantages of the technology.
Containers running in the cloud may share the server and resources, but they do not interact with each other. They’re containers, after all. This isolation ensures that they run independently of each other, and if one application crashes, other containers with the same application will not experience any problems.
An added benefit of this isolation is the decrease in security risks. In case a malware breaks through your defenses, it will not spread to other containers in the same environment, and other containers will not experience the negative effects of the breach.
Containers allow for the possibility of horizontal scaling, which is to say that you can add identical containers within a cluster to scale out your infrastructure. Running only the containers that are needed any given time, reduces your costs dramatically.
Instead of dealing with instances and virtual machines, each with their own operating systems, you can use containers to execute your application processes in isolation from the OS. This provides the benefit of simpler management, particularly when it comes to applying updates and security patches to your operating environment.
As powerful as the cloud is, speed is still a major concern for users. Firing up instances and virtual machines takes time. But containers can be created, started, replicated, or destroyed in seconds. That is because not only they are lightweight, but because they do not require an operating system to boot.
As we discussed earlier, in our introduction to Amazon ECS, a container wraps up everything an application needs to run. Including the core app data, configuration files and dependencies. What this means is that developers can easily and reliably run applications on different environments — and not just cloud, but even local ones like desktop computers, virtual and physical servers.
Not only this means faster development and testing phases, but also the freedom to switch to another cloud provider, if necessary.
The fact that containers don’t require a separate OS plays heavily in their favor. They use up far less resources than virtual machines. We are looking at several gigabytes for a typical VM, compared to just a few megabytes for a container. This efficiency also makes it possible to run many containers on a single server, as opposed to virtual machines.
They also require less hardware prowess, meaning you can be assured of reduced bare metal and datacenter costs — a vital consideration for enterprises.
Developers love containers for a variety of different reasons, the biggest of which is the effective development pipelines that they allow. You can run them locally on your computer or laptop, and then upload the container directly to the cloud when done, making the testing and debugging process less time consuming.
Same for when you want to update your applications. You can simply create new containers after modifying the configuration file, and destroy the old one. All within seconds.