By XanoAugust 12, 2021
Containers have long been associated with major platforms like Linux and Unix, but Docker launched an open source platform in 2013 that became a quick hit with software developers and helped popularize containers with a wider audience.
A container is essentially a self-contained mini-computer that packages up code and all its dependencies. By isolating software from its environment, containers can ensure applications run effectively across different computing environments.
While there are varying types of containers available on the market, Docker is among the most popular, and is often credited with democratizing software containers for a wider audience.
Founded in 2008, Docker got its start as a platform as a service (PaaS), but started gaining significant attention in 2013 after pivoting their focus to the creation of software containers.
Solomon Hykes, Docker founder, explained he was inspired to create Docker as developers wanted to learn more about the underlying technology behind DotCloud platforms. He created Docker as an open source project, which allowed anyone to use, study, or modify the project without paying a fee.
Docker simplified the process of creating a container, aiming to give developers more flexibility and freedom. With Docker, developers use a set of reusable images that make workloads more portable, allowing developers to deploy, replicate, move, and back up a workload much more efficiently.
Docker ended up attracting the attention of high-profile providers like Microsoft, IBM, and Red Hat. It has remained popular with software developers ever since.
Part of what made Docker different from other providers is the way it packaged tools, streamlining the entire process for developers. Docker containers include:
Docker containers work the same way across multiple environments. This means – regardless of the server, machine, or OS – your team is in sync at all times, making Docker great for bigger companies and/or remote work. It greatly cuts down on back-and-forth between employees due to platform issues.
Despite being based on Linux, Docker is designed to run smoothly on any device. When Docker updates, you should not experience compatibility issues that can slow down your team or force you to roll-back to a previous update.
Applications that run on containers are completely independent of one another. This grants you complete control over traffic flow and management, potentially increasing overall security.
With Docker, developers can condense the building blocks of an application into a single modular unit with interchangeable parts. This provides a considerable advantage in that it speeds up everything from deployment cycles to feature releases to bug fixes.
Virtual Machines (VMs) can take up a lot of space – both in terms of physical space and virtual memory. Docker containers are a viable alternative to VMs as they use only the code for an application and its dependencies. This means they can run on the Cloud, eliminating the need for a physical server while using significantly less memory.
The fact Docker updates frequently is a blessing and curse for developers. While updates make deployment more efficient, the associated documentation does not always update alongside the technology, leaving developers scrambling to find information without a lot of guidance.
While working with Docker containers can benefit a company in the long run, you have to account for a tough learning curve. Docker concepts are often difficult to grasp, especially for less experienced developers, and it may take several months before your team gets comfortable working with Docker.
Dockers are lightweight and therefore have less overhead than Virtual Machines, but this does not mean no performance overhead at all. Docker containers do not run bare-metal speeds, which can become an issue if your workload requires this.
Docker containers can help you build portable software containers, simplifying many processes involved with software development. They come with other notable advantages – such as stability, consistency, and increased security – and can potentially help companies with cross-platform development.
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