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The role of containers in DevOps

Vaishnavi Vijayaram
   

Development and Operations teams were siloed in traditional software application development cycles. While developers were responsible for building apps and focused on coding to satisfy business needs, the operations team were responsible for service management and incident response. Lack of communication and collaboration between both teams were prevalent. With DevOps, app development, testing, deployment, and maintenance works in tandem to improve the speed, stability, availability and security of software delivery capability.

Technology plays a large role in understanding customer’s journey – their buying habits, choice of channels and engagement. To excel, it is not just enough for businesses to speed up the development lifecycle. There is a need to scale, offer new features/functionalities/solutions with speed and at different timelines continuously – without affecting the end users. In this context, IT infrastructure demands are getting complex in terms of scalability and elasticity, which requires dynamic provisioning. There is an urgency to deliver applications quickly and consistently. For example, the business requirements of digital native retailers keep changing in the competitive environment, which requires dynamic scaling and provisioning. In this scenario, DevOps can help accelerates app development and deployment. To reduce DevOps efforts and automate routine operational tasks, having standardized environments throughout the lifecycle is necessary, which can be achieved with the use of containers.

Organizations who fail to cope up with the business demand not only fail to grow, but also risk going out of business entirely. The State of DevOps 2019 survey states: ‘By leveraging the cloud, retailers can burst capacity easily and they aren’t stuck having discussions about “if” or “when” they should use the cloud. They’re already there.’ This is in tune with the Git-hub’s definition of cloud-native: ’Cloud native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.’

According to IEEE, Container technology offers agility in developing and running applications in cloud infrastructure, especially when combined with a microservice-style architecture. With these technologies, DevOps is the process of continuous integration and delivery in the app development lifecycle. The growth of microservices architecture, be it in modernizing legacy apps or building new age apps, has simultaneously led to the wide use of containers. Microservices architecture and containers work together to help achieve business agility and deliver better software to customers faster.

Containers – the promise

Enterprises make use of microservices to build flexible and scalable applications. This helps in upgrading or expanding a feature/function, without having to change any other component. According to The State of Microservices Maturity survey, 69% of the respondents use containers for microservices deployment, as they are capable of delivering microservices at scale. Containers come with built-in environments, thus it helps in overcoming incompatibility issues that may crop up between frameworks/libraries/languages. This leads to a faster and iterative DevOps, resulting in higher business responsiveness and better ROIon infrastructure.

Container driven DevOps is different

As per a recent survey, 80% of respondents said the primary application or service they supported was hosted on some kind of cloud platform. With containers and container orchestration, you can create scalable and portable cloud infrastructure fast. This is because, in container driven DevOps workflows, app artifacts or individual microservices and it’s dependencies and configs are bundled as a single container image.

Platforms, like Kubernetes, Docker, and Helios, use the container images plus config to orchestrate them for deployment.This helps in running application from any environment with ease and reliability. When there are updates or fixes for a microservice, the corresponding container images are never updated, instead they are rebuilt and redeployed on cloud.

In this process, 95% of containers live less than a week, therefore standardization of containers is a must to update them at scale and manage them with Kubernetes. In this equation, there is a need to automate and standardize container delivery processes. This requires a niche skill set or an automated app delivery platform.

Automated, scalable, error free

Using a reliable platform to standardize container based application delivery can help in handling complexities of delivering them to Kubernetes. Pure time and material based delivery process is expensive, slow, and error prone. Platform enables an out-of-the-box, repeatable container delivery process. For traditional enterprises, auto containerization reduces container skill burden because it automates most of the steps in the container delivery workflow. The platform can act as a one-stop shop for containerization by bringing in centralization and standardization of the whole process. As a result, enterprise IT gets better control and predictable delivery. With all the bells and whistles built-in, here is an overview of how this approach works:

The way forward

Container driven DevOps is the answer to achieve faster delivery without compromising on quality. Come up with a pilot program to containerize with proper assessment and planning. On successful completion, build and finalize enterprise wide containerization plan and roll-out in phases. Administer ongoing maintenance and support. This will ensure repeatable, automated, predictable app delivery.