Don’t be afraid to admit it. If you are like many folks, even in IT, you may have heard about containers, Docker and the like, but you aren’t 100% up to speed on them. What are its advantages? What are the pros/cons of containers versus VMs? Are they mutually exclusive? I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. In fact we hope to explore these topics and more, in depth here at Container Journal in the weeks and months to come.
But where can you find some good information right now? I myself have been doing a ton of reading and research on containers leading up to the launch of Container Journal. I want to share with you what I think are 9 must read blog posts on containers in general and some of the above questions in particular. Some are a little longer than others, but I think they are all really important if you are looking to understand more about containerized computing.
So here are my picks for the 9 top container blog posts:
1. What are containers and how did they come about? by Gordon Haff on his Connections blog. Gordon is in the cloud strategy group at Red Hat but is also a widely known author and expert beyond that. This one is possibly my favorite post on the history of containers and is written back in September of 2013. Beyond that though, Gordon also references and links to several articles he wrote back in the mid-2000’s about what he refers to as the “partitioning bazaar“. This is about “all manner of both hardware-based, software-based, and hybrid techniques-” of virtualization. Virtualization being used in the broader sense, not just the narrower hypervisor based virtualization which had become so dominant. BTW Haff refers to this hypervisor based virtualization as hardware virtualization. He lays out a strong case of why containers today and why PaaS is a great place for them. One point he makes that should be noted is that he doesn’t think containers replace VMs and hypervisors. Different use cases for different technologies. Anyway, grab a cup of coffee and settle in to read this post and follow the links to his earlier works for a really good foundation in virtualization, containers, PaaS, etc. One note is that this was written when Red Hat announced it was working with dotCloud (Docker for those who don’t know), so it is geared towards that and Red Hat’s Open Shift PaaS solution.
2. Red Hat and Docker Collaborate by Docker CEO Ben Golub on the Docker Blog. This is sort of the flip side to the above post. The Red Hat announcement from Docker’s point of view. This was written when the company was still dotCloud and didn’t have quite the stature it does today. So perhaps in a humbler manner, but still consistent to the message today, Golub lays out why it is so important that Docker work with the leading Linux distributions and PaaS platforms out there. While Docker has more leverage today, the reasoning that Ben lays out hasn’t changed. While we are at it though, the entire Docker Blog is probably good reading for anyone interested in the container space.
3. Aggregation is the New Virtualization: How Microservices Are Taming Distributed Computing by Sudip Chakrabarti and Peter Levine on the Andreessen Horowitz a16z.com blog. This one is about much more than containers. It gives you a good idea of where several technology buzzwords like microservices, containers and data center operating system. It gives a good quick history of both virtualization and containers. The lesson I took at of this one is that while VM based virtualization “carved up” hardware, containerization will allow to aggregate hardware into data center, nay globe spanning distributed systems that will allow organizations to be more nimble and agile, concentrating on their apps and not on plumbing and infrastructure.
4. Microsoft Unveils New Container Technologies for the Next Generation Cloud by Mike Neil, General Manager, Windows Server. This one is from just this past April and lays out Microsoft’s current (for now anyway) container strategy. They had already announced a collaboration with Docker that would see Windows Server Containers part of the next version of Windows Server (demoed at the Build Conference this past year). In this post Neil lays out:
- Hyper-V Containers, a new container deployment option with enhanced isolation powered by Hyper-V virtualization.
- Nano Server, a minimal footprint installation of Windows Server that is highly optimized for the cloud, and ideal for containers.
These both work with Docker and the Docker ecosystem as well as carve out “special Microsoft relationship” with containers. Love them or hate them, Microsoft is determined to be a player in the container world and you would be foolish to bet against them even if you do know that many people still call them Linux containers ;-).
5. Containers vs Hypervisors: The Battle Has Just Begun by Russell Pavlicek on Linux.com. I don’t know if there really is a battle, that depends on who you speak with. But certainly there is a lot of questions in the market (OK maybe by the uninformed, but there are lots of them today) over what is the difference between VM and containers. Is one better than the other? Which one will emerge dominant? In this post Pavlicek says that containers have some real advantages but for him security is a major drawback (we have several container and security articles here on Container Journal). To be fair he thinks that traditional hypervisor also have security concerns. Russell says the answer is a new play on VM, Unikernels. He thinks Unikernels will inherit the earth or at least the data center. Will leave it to you to agree or disagree with but a couple of points he makes that you should note:
- Google has gone for containers in a big way and made them work very well. But we all aren’t Google, so your results may vary.
- Running containers in a hypervisor environment can give you the benefits and protection of both. While not perfect, it is a potential solution.
- It is still early in the game and picking winners is bit premature.
6. An introduction to containers, Kubernetes, and the trajectory of modern cloud computing by Miles Ward, Google Cloud Platform’s Global Head of Solutions. This is the first in a series by the folks at Google Cloud. It gives a great description of “why containers (as opposed to VM)”. It lays out Google’s own journey here and how they have succeeded with containers. It describes Docker and its advantages and VERY IMPORTANT why Google developed Kubernetes. Ward also mentions Google’s Container Engine which offers “containers as a service” hosted on Google Cloud. Google probably has more container experience than just about anyone, so you would be wise to read this entire series actually.
7. Container Computing and AWS by Jeff Barr on the AWS Official blog. We have heard from Microsoft, Google, Red Hat and Docker, what is a cloud technology discussion without AWS? In this pivotal post Barr lays out why containers. He gives some excellent resources that helped him understand containers. As Barr says technology moves forward sometimes in big splashy announcements, other times it sneaks up on you. Barr says that containers have snuck up on us but are big now. For me this post validated that AWS is acknowledging that containers are big and getting bigger. It was a big reason why I decided that Container Journal was the right move for us here. This is a relatively short blog post and Barr succinctly lays out the benefits of Container Computing.
8. CoreOS is building a container runtime, rkt by Alex Polvi, CEO CoreOs. This is the blog post that started what I hope is the short lived container war. CoreOS was a Docker contributor and key part of the community. However, for reasons that are still debated depending who you speak to, CoreOS decided that the world needed choice. They feld Docker had drifted from its original vision perhaps. They wanted to address security and other issues in another container, rkt. You can read the post for more details. My take on it was while containers are here to stay who knows who the ultimate players will be. I am old enough to remember asking who would need another search engine, we already had Alta Vista and Infoseek. That other company was a start up named Google 😉
9. Docker and Broad Industry Coalition Unite to Create Open Container Project on Docker Blog and App Container and the Open Container Project by Alex Polvi, CoreOS CEO. This is a two for one pick. One is Docker’s take on the peace treaty that is the OCP and the other is the view of it by CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi. The important thing here is that it is not just these two companies but look at some of the heavyweights involved in this project. Hopefully the container using universe is the real winner in this one. Here are some of the logos from the Docker post referenced above:
So there are my 9 posts to read on containers. What did I leave out? What are your favorite container blogs and resources? We want to know and if you want to write a post on what you think, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org