Container-based Development Separating Hype from Substance

By: Morpheus Data


Big-name development-tool vendors are rushing to support the container model for efficient, VM-based app creation.

TL;DR: Google, Microsoft, and other software giants have taken aim at the burgeoning market for container-focused application development by supporting the technology on their platforms. However, the true potential of the technology may be realized only by embracing the revolutionary approach to container development proposed by startups such as Terminal.

Applications are becoming atomized. No longer are they comprised of lines and lines of code painstakingly written, compiled, debugged, tested, deployed, and updated. Now programs are pieced together using microservices like Lego blocks to build unique software creations directly in your browser.

What began about a year ago with the landscaping-changing introduction of the Docker open-source platform for creating, deploying, and running distributed applications has quickly become a mainstream movement involving the biggest names in the software industry.

The most-recent arrival on the container scene is the Kubernetes-based Google Container Engine, which the company announced in a November 4, 2014, blog post. As explained by InfoWorld’s Sergar Yegulalp in a November 5, 2014, article, Container Engine groups virtual-machine instances into nodes that themselves are combined into clusters. The clusters run “Dockerized” versions of the apps at scale, performing all load balancing and handling communication between containers.

The introduction of Google Container Engine comes on the heels of last month’s announcement by Microsoft that the next version of Windows Server will support Docker containers, as ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported in an October 15, 2014, article. Docker CTO Solomon Hykes sees Microsoft’s support for the technology as “a strong message to the IT community” that Docker is “a mainstream part of the IT toolbox.” Hykes was interviewed by ZDNet’s Toby Wolpe for an October 28, 2014, story.

Native support for the Docker client in Microsoft’s Windows Server 2015 allows the same standard Docker client and interface to be used on multiple development environments. Source: Microsoft

Container’s impact on app dev more revolutionary than evolutionary

It’s no surprise that Google, Microsoft, and other established development-tool vendors would attempt to integrate the mini-VM container approach with their existing platforms. However, the long-term impact of the technology may be in how it turns the existing development model on its head by creating a private server for each app from a thin slice of the cloud.

That’s how Terminal co-founders Joseph Perna and Varun Ganapathi explain the approach their new company is taking to container-based app development. Ganapathi is quoted by TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler in an October 24, 2014, post as predicting that everyone will have a cloud computer on which they run and interoperate apps securely. Because you can run multiple processes simultaneously from within a container, you can quickly stitch together dozens of virtual machines to create an app that scales instantly, without requiring a reboot.

Scalability is both one of the greatest benefits of container-based development, and one of the technology’s greatest challenges. According to NetworkWorld’s Pete Bartolik, the problem is that CIOs continue to overpay for capacity. In an October 16, 2014, article, Bartolik cites a recent study by Computerworld UK that found companies are using only half of the cloud server capacity they have provisioned. It seems IT managers have gotten into the habit of over-provisioning their own servers to accommodate surges in demand.

Of course, this cancels out one of the principal benefits of cloud computing: the cost savings realized by auto-scaling and elasticity. Containers are perceived as a means of instituting a true usage-based model. Yet you needn’t wait for the container wave to take advantage of the efficiency cloud services deliver. The Morpheus database-as-a-service (DBaaS) ensures that you’re paying for only the resources you’re using.

Morpheus’s straightforward interface lets you provision, deploy, and host MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, and ElasticSearch from a single dashboard. Your databases are backed up automatically and deployed with a free full replica set for fault tolerance and fail over. Visit the Morpheus site for pricing information and to sign up for a free account.