Micro-Services and Containers – Overview and Benefits

Shriram Pore Jun 10 - 5 min read

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The worldwide technology community is acutely focused on the Digital Transformation Era of the day. This focus has spiked an unprecedented demand in highly competent Digital Transformation Services from IT service providers. This article gives you an in-depth understanding of some key application containerization best practices, which will give you a clear perspective on the basic requirement for any robust Digital Transformation services and solutions.

A Precursor On Digital Transformation And Containerization

Digital transformation and containerization; let us see how two seemingly orthogonal ideas concur.

Just as a precursor, we see people everywhere glued to their screens. People are experiencing and interacting with the world through the screens of their gadgets. In many countries, over 90 percent of people have access to and are using mobile phones, tabs, laptops, and other smart screen devices.

The digital world is providing people with open, fast, and transparent access to the services and products. With so many people on highly available digital fabric, with digital identities, it has become imperative for businesses to provide services in the digital world. This drives digital transformation. Thus, we have witnessed rise in the container service providers globally.

Since 2013, the growth & adoption of container technologies has been exponential and continues to explode with no hint of slowing down. CET (Cloud-Enabling technologies) which includes Virtualization, Containers, and Private PaaS is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.84 percent during the period 2017-2021.  Containers market hold a significant portion of market revenue, which promotes the upward revenue growth trajectory, given some of the adoption trends. With over $40B revenue projections for the year 2020, the adoption of containers has become a prime focus area for enterprise customers.

Let us glance at the digital transformation journey with application containerization.

Today’s Challenges

With the advent of e-commerce and other web-applications, users have the following expectations from the service:

  • The service should always be ON – up and running
  • It should be accessible from anywhere
  • It must be responsive (reasonably fast)
  • It should work seamlessly with different form factors (screen sizes) without any change in user experience

Ever changing technological landscape is varying at a rapid pace. New technologies, new competitors emerge quickly. Responding to these challenges needs agility. Along with the changes in technology, there are changes in compliance, rules, and regulations. This puts additional pressure on businesses to respond quickly.

Most companies have monolith applications or set of such applications that are currently servicing the customers. Such applications run as a significant process consuming many resources. Although at times monolith applications give a good performance, they suffer from drawbacks such as:

  • Lack Of Agility
  • Increased Costs
  • Less Flexibility Or Adaptability
  • Lack Of Elasticity

Transitioning To Micro-Services

Before we jump into transitioning to micro-services, let us understand that micro-services is an architectural style that structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled small services, which implement business capabilities. The micro-service architecture enables the continuous delivery/deployment of large, complex applications.

In other words, micro-services architectural style is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small autonomous services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP(S) resource API, which is modeled around a business domain.

Some of the benefits of micro-services include:

1. Likely to consume fewer resources

Unlike monolithic applications, only those micro-services, that see demand, need to be scaled. In monolith applications, most of the modules have to be scaled up. Because few services may have to be scaled up, fewer resources are likely to be consumed most of the time.

2. Scalable yet elastic

Micro-services can be scaled out as the need be. Over a server farm, micro-services could be scaled out. When there is drop in demand, those services could be turned off or reduced. Due to smaller footprint, more services could be accommodated. If not all the services see demand at the same time, a smaller set of resources could be used for more scalable and elastic services.

3. More adaptable

Change in the business environment or rules and regulations make it necessary to tweak software. If policy engines were available as micro-service, other services do not get affected. Such micro-service could be separately updated or tweaked. It can be separately tested. Thus, micro-service based systems are more adaptable.

4. Isolation

In most cases, changes in a micro-service do not affect other micro-services, provided there are well-designed interfaces between them. Thus, there is isolation between the services. Each service may use a different technology. Isolation reduces or eliminates the impact of technology or design choice.

4 Key Uses of Application Containerization

  1. ontainers provide a convenient way to implement micro-services.
  2. Virtualization is being used over last decade to achieve some of the goals discussed above and for better hardware utilization. Virtualization adds 30 percent overhead. Hypervisors that allow running virtual machines on hardware add to this significant overhead.
  3. Container overheads are minimal and can provide even better resource utilization.
  4. Containers run on a machine for most optimal performance and resource utilization. If the machine fails all the containers running on that machine, get impacted. Container orchestration & automation engine software such as Kubernetes address this single point of failure (SPOF).

Deploying containers on server farms

To handle a variety of failures and to provide always ON system, the containers must be deployed on a server farm. Software such as Kubernetes provides the ability to provide scalability, elasticity, load balancing of the containers over the farm.

Containerization can help the digital transformation journey by creating a scalable, elastic, adaptable, and quick deployment of micro-services to align with the rapidly changing business needs. They can help to respond to disruptive technologies and rapidly changing business environment to meet today’s challenges.

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