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The Whats and Whys of Containerized Microservices

Containerized microservices have become an extremely popular approach for development and deployment initiatives. They carve out an uncomplicated path for digital transformation and cloud migration. But what exactly does the approach promise? And why is this important?

Developing apps or improving the existing system using microservices is both effective and efficient for software development companies. Be it a specific function or parts of the software or app that needs improvement – microservices are the best resort. However, companies often struggle with creating, testing, and implementing microservices periodically. This is where containerized microservices help.


According to Statista, in 2022, 53% of companies plan to containerize apps, with more than 33% planning to rearchitect apps into microservices. In addition, 20% have a strategy to move from virtual machines to containers. If leveraged well, containerization can contribute to developing as well as operating microservices. Let us understand containerized microservices in detail.

What Is Containerization?

Containerization is a software development approach in which applications and their dependencies, along with the environment structure abstracted as operation manifest files, are packed together like a container, tested as one unit, and implemented to host the operating system.

A container environment is isolated, portable, and resource-controlled, where applications run without interfering with the resources of another container or even the host. Thus, a container behaves like a newly installed virtual machine or computer.

Enterprises are adopting containers to implement microservices based on their applications. Some standard container implementation hosts can be adopted by cloud vendors and software platforms. At A5E, experts handle containerized microservices using the latest technology to reduce overhead, improve efficiency, and advance software development.

Key Considerations for Containerized Microservices

Container Runtimes

Configuration management tools are essential to managing containerized microservices as opposed to implementing container runtimes single-handedly. Usually, container runtime handles different stages of execution effectively, but the runtimes are not enough to manage these containers. You can find an array of runtimes from multiple providers, but most of these options will only function in the same manner. Of course, they should conform to Open Container Initiative specifications. 

Service Orchestration

When you are working with a large number of containers, orchestration tools should be used to automate operational tasks like container distribution across servers. Kubernetes is the best choice for container orchestration, especially for Docker users. In addition, there are other platforms for container management designed for specific cases. For instance, Red Hat OpenShift and Amazon Elastic Container Service are two proprietary container management options equipped with enterprise-level features such as integrated CI/CD pipelines and workflow automation.

Networking

Even when deployed independently, some microservices still live inside the containers. They communicate with one another. As a result, you have to deploy a service mesh to manage requests across microservices with the help of an abstract proxy component. When those services further interact with the external endpoints, a communication portal will be needed to verify and send requests even from external components like API gateways.

Constant Storage 

Container data disappears immediately as the occurrence shuts down. Hence those reliant on persistent data should implement necessary external storage. Orchestrator components typically handle container data storage. Hence, it is important to make sure that the external storage components are compatible with those particular orchestrators. Fortunately, Kubernetes supports multiple storage products through Container Storage Interface.

Security

Microservices require access to the backend resources. So, running those containers in that mode allows them to have direct access to the root capabilities of the host. This also exposes the kernel as well as allied sensitive components of the system. Developers must set necessary network policies and security context definitions to prevent any unauthorized access to underlying systems and containers. 

Lastly, it is imperative to deploy audit tools to validate container configurations and meet the underlined security requirements and image scanners of the containers that detect potential security threats automatically.

Pros & Cons of Containerized Microservices

Pros

  • Greater consistency: Containerized microservices offer greater consistency in developing and testing automated microservice code blocks and applications. Since microservices are isolated in containers, very few variables are involved. This means there are fewer potential concerns during different stages of development, testing, and deployment. 
  • Scalability: Containerized microservices also support the growth of the business. Compared to the development of virtual machines, containerization also allows you to stack different containers on one server hardware and one OS environment for continual growth.  
  • Better isolation: Containerized microservices also limit resource consumption and allow businesses to stretch the limited resources and budget while developing several microservices simultaneously. 
  • Efficiency: As fewer resources are required to run multiple microservices simultaneously, it eases the burden of the organization. Compared to the same microservices running in a virtual machine environment, this is more efficient. 

All in all, containerized microservices are highly efficient and cost-effective in developing and testing several microservices.

Regardless of these factors, containers offer the most straightforward deployment of functional microservices into the dynamic product environment – typically in large-scale environments.

Cons

  • Complex workforce: Developers face immense complications in dealing with abstract containers, typically while implementing microservices to big platforms and applications. Luckily, some proprietary, open-source and container management tools assist developers in carrying this out. 
  • Familiarity with Kubernetes: It is mandatory to know Kubernetes and be familiar with the tool or similar tools to ensure you understand container orchestration. The servers must be familiar with container runtimes and storage and network resources needed for each. 
  • Does not support legacy applications: Although microservices are helpful and they have a unique place in app development, they don’t work in every case. Depending on what type of app you are running, it may or may not work. This often poses a challenge while implementing the same in a containerized environment. 

Due to all these shortcomings, developers might not prefer containerized microservices for smaller projects. They may consider a virtual machine environment for dealing with apps having limited functionalities.

Final Word

Altogether, containers are a popular choice for deploying functional microservices. Though they have some innate complexities, they make testing as well as deployment more predictable. 

Reach out to us to learn more about the viability of containerized microservices for your product or application development initiatives.

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