What Do Containers Have to Do with Being Cloud-Native, Anyway?

“Cloud-native” is a term you frequently hear during conversations about containers. What does it mean, and what does it have to do with containers? Let’s take a look.

In a simple sense, cloud-native means what it sounds like. It refers to anything that is born in the cloud, or designed first and primarily to run in the cloud.

The term is partly a buzzword, featuring frequently in press releases. But the concept has also inspired initiatives such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, or CNCF—arguably the most influential open source organization of the moment, given its sponsorship of projects such as Kubernetes.

Cloud-Native and Containers

These days, you tend to hear containers and cloud-native mentioned in the same sentence. Container vendors like to call themselves cloud-native. Red Hat even has a “Containers and Cloud-Native Roadshow.”

In some respects, this may seem surprising. Containers don’t run only in the cloud. You could run containers on a local, on-premises server if you want—and there are plenty of good reasons to do so.

You might use containers as part of your local CI/CD pipeline, for example. Or maybe you use them to deploy an internal business application that is deployed on-premises.

That said, labeling containers cloud-native is not too much of a stretch. In many ways, containers lend themselves first to deploying cloud applications:

  • You can deploy the same container in any cloud. You can also typically use the same open source tools to manage containers in any cloud. This means that containers maximize mobility between clouds.
  • Containers allow you to deploy applications in the cloud without having to worry about the nuances of a particular cloud provider’s virtual servers or compute instances.
  • Cloud vendors can use to containers to build out other types of services, such as serverless computing.
  • Containers offer security benefits for applications running in the cloud. They add another layer of isolation between your application and the host environment, without requiring you to run a full virtual server.

So, while it’s certainly true that you don’t need a cloud to use containers, containers can make cloud-based applications easier to deploy. Containers and the cloud go hand in hand in our cloud-native world.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with Fixate.io and Sweetcode.io.

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