Can containers help save the planet? That may not be a common question to ask about Docker’s benefits, but it’s a valid one. Here’s why.
Ask most people why Docker containers are useful, and you’ll hear answers having to do with efficiency and consistency in deploying applications.
Developers and admins like containers because they simplify environment configurations. They make it easier to avoid unexpected problems due to differences between development and employment environments.
Businesses like containers because they help save money. They allow developers to work faster, lower the risk of software problems that impact operations and allow the company to do more with less hardware.
The Environmentalist Argument for Docker
Environmentalists probably don’t pay much attention to Docker containers. But if they did, they might appreciate the ways in which Docker can save energy. Docker does this in two main ways.
First, containers allow organizations to run more applications on the same server than they could with other technologies. With virtual machines, system resources are wasted on hardware emulation. On bare-metal servers, capacity is often wasted because bare-metal servers need to maintain a fairly large reserve of resources to avoid the risk of overload with no failover option.
Doing more with the same number of servers not only saves money, but is also environmentally friendly. There are fewer servers to build and to power.
The second way in which Docker containers are environmentally friendly is by helping to breathe new life into older hardware. With Docker, you can deploy applications in a consistent way with little concern for the underlying hardware or software configuration of the host server (to a point, of course).
This makes it easier to keep older servers in commission without worrying about hardware compatibility issues, firmware issues and so on. It also helps to prevent new server purchases based on the idea that all servers in the data center should be the same to simplify management. With Docker, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as it would otherwise if your data center is composed of a mismatch of machines of varying vintages, hardware profiles and operating system types.
Docker now even officially supports mainframes. That says a lot. If Docker helps organizations to continue getting life out of mainframe systems, it also helps the environment by obviating the need to replace those servers with newer hardware, and throw the mainframes into a garbage dump somewhere.
The environmentalist argument may not be Docker’s most effective selling point with most audiences. But it is one worth making. The efficiency that containers provide not only helps to save money and time, but also mitigates the environmental effects of modern computing.