Container as a Service Cloud Platforms

by Mike Sweetman
17 March 2020

Today packaging and isolation tasks of modern applications are very relevant in cloud systems. Most cloud providers use the application containerization mechanism and provide the popular business model called Container as a Service. Let’s describe container technology and its application for cloud systems.

Recently, containerization technology has become widespread as lightweight virtualization and resource isolation at the operating system level. This technology allows you to run the application and the minimum system libraries it needs in a fully standardized container. Together with cloud system containers, it provides a very powerful service for running applications.

What is the container?

The container is independent of the resources or architecture of the host on which it runs. The container communicates with the host or external environment using certain interfaces. The most popular container system now is Docker.

Docker is a container management system. It allows you to "pack" an application or website with all its surroundings and dependencies into a container, which in the future can be easily and simply used to manage tasks such as transferring to another server, scaling or updating. Initially, it worked only with Linux systems, but at the moment it can also be used on Windows and macOS. Despite the fact that the system is relatively new, it is already widely used by many experts and continues to gain popularity. An important part of the Docker ecosystem is the Docker Hub, an open container image repository. In it, you can find dozens of ready-made applications from official developers. The Docker hub.docker.com repository contains more than 100,000 ready-to-install applications, among which you will definitely find the right one for your needs.

Docker container images have all the libraries needed by the application, so there will be no conflicts with other software. It is also worth noting separately that using Docker, you can easily transfer the application to another environment: just upload the image to the repository and download it on the server. Containers are similar to virtual machines in the sense that they provide a separate isolated and discrete space for executing applications in RAM and placing them in disk memory and look like an individual system so that each container can have its own system administrators and users. However, unlike a Virtual Machine, a container does not require a single instance or image of an OS with kernels, drivers, and shared libraries. Instead, on top of a single host OS instance, a whole stack of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of containers can work, occupying a small fraction of the resources that would be required for a VM to perform the same application tasks. Additional containers can be launched in microseconds compared to the time in minutes or more required to start a VM. Containers contain only applications, the parameters of their work and the necessary disk memory for them.

What is Container as a Service and how it works?

CaaS is a cloud service model that allows users to manage and deploy containers, applications, and clusters through container-based virtualization. In the spectrum of cloud computing services, CaaS lies somewhere between Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Platform as Service (PaaS). However, CaaS is most often positioned as a variant of IaaS. The primary resource for CaaS is the container, not the virtual machines (VMs) or physical servers that are used to support IaaS environments. A container can work both in a virtual machine and on hardware.

As mentioned in the article “Containers as a Service (CaaS) as your new platform for application development and operations”, “To deliver the consistent experience for developers and IT ops, teams began using Docker for Containers as a Service (CaaS). Containers as a Service is a model where IT organizations and developers can work together to build, ship and run their applications anywhere. CaaS enables an IT secured and managed application environment consisting of content and infrastructure, from which developers are able to build and deploy applications in a self service manner.

When talking about containers it is necessary to mention the orchestration. Orchestration is the coordination of the interaction of several containers. Orchestration allows you to create information systems from a variety of containers, each of which is responsible for only one specific task, and communication is carried out through network ports and shared directories. If necessary, each such container can be replaced by another, which allows, for example, quickly switching to another version of the database if necessary. CaaS cloud systems provide container environments with orchestration tools. 

Main CaaS Cloud Providers

Container as a Service (CaaS) represents a form of container-based virtualization in which container engines, orchestration and the underlying compute resources are delivered to users as a service from a cloud provider.

Google Container Engine(GKE), AWS (ECS), Azure (ACS) and Pivotal (PKS, now part of VMWare) are some examples of CaaS.

Amazon

AWS is one of the best container launch platforms. 80% of all containers in the cloud run on AWS. Companies like Samsung, Expedia, KPMG, GoDaddy and Snap are launching their Docker containers on AWS, as Amazon guarantees security, reliability, and scalability.

AWS offers the broadest range of container orchestrators so you can run containers on AWS regardless of instrument choice or API. If you are familiar with the logical structures and APIs of the AWS platform, ECS is great for launching your containers. ECS is deeply integrated with AWS services such as Identity and Access Management (IAM), Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), and Amazon Route 53. It has repeatedly been tested for security, reliability, and the ability to support the critical services of both the cloud and customers. The mechanisms of AWS services such as Amazon SageMaker, AWS Batch, Amazon Lex, and Amazon.com recommendation service are created using ECS. Moreover, clients such as Expedia, Mobileye, Cook Pad, and Hudl, who are already actively using AWS features, have decided to create mechanisms based on ECS. Every hour, ECS launches 5 times more tasks than EC2.

AWS also offers end-to-end monitoring, security, and traffic management for distributed systems, so you can directly create applications. With the AWS App Mesh, you get an application-level network configuration, and this is the only service network that provides interoperability between different types of computing infrastructures on AWS, such as EC2, ECS, Fargate, and Kubernetes.

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) — (Caas / Kaas)

GKE is GCP's unique computing offering and is an abstraction of the Compute Engine. More generally, GKE can be categorized as Container as a Service (CaaS), sometimes called Kubernetes as a Service (KaaS), which allows customers to easily launch their Docker containers in a fully managed Kubernetes environment. For those who are not familiar with containers, containers help modularly form services/applications, so different containers can contain different services. For example, one container can host the interface of your web application, and the other can contain its server part. Kubernetes automates, coordinates, manages and deploys your containers.

Main Google Container Engine features are the following:

  • Docker container support
  • Scalability of applications based on the resources used
  • Logging information about the operation of applications
  • The ability to create hybrid networks
  • Identity and Access Management
  • A confidential container registry allows you to store and access personal Docker images

The Google Container Engine is often used by software developers who create and test new enterprise applications. Containers are also used by administrators for better scalability of applications and fulfillment of requirements for corporate applications.

Docker on Microsoft Azure

Of course, Microsoft also created a cloud-based infrastructure for containers. This powerful model, combined with Microsoft technologies, gives you inimitable benefits for real projects. Let's look at what is different and what are the best qualities of this CaaS cloud system.

Application and infrastructure upgrades allow you to move your applications to Azure quickly and easily to increase the security of application services and to upgrade them. By deploying Docker in Azure, you can run modern and traditional Linux or Windows applications with security, support, and enterprise-class scalability. Integrated Management, Security, and Cost Savings allow reducing operating costs and increasing efficiency with a versatile operating model and a secure supply chain for traditional and cloud applications in Docker containers. 

Let's take a look at the main benefits of Docker in Azure:

  • Container support for Windows Server and Linux
  • Support for microservices and traditional application workloads
  • Integrated graphical user interface controls
  • Role-based granular access control (RBAC), LDAP support, and Azure Active Directory integration
  • A comprehensive security model that provides a more secure supply chain
  • The familiar Azure administration interface
  • Automatic preparation and configuration of the load balancer

Docker for Azure provides its own native Docker solution, which avoids the complexity of operations and adding unnecessary additional APIs to the Docker stack. Docker for Azure lets you interact directly with Docker (including the Docker built-in orchestration) without using additional layers on top of Docker.

The custom Linux distribution used by Docker for Azure is designed and configured for Docker to work properly. Starting with the kernel configuration and ending with the network stack, it is configured to make it a suitable place to start Docker. The kernel versions are compatible with the latest and best in Docker features, such as the overlay2 storage driver. Next-generation Docker bug reporting tools are used in Azure. In Docker for Azure, you get new tools to quickly and safely report any problems you encounter. The Docker for Azure shell includes a docker diagnostic script that transmits detailed diagnostic information to Docker support upon request.

VMware Infrastructure for Enterprise Containers

vSphere Integrated Containers implements an enterprise container infrastructure that helps IT operations teams run traditional and container applications on a common platform. Thanks to the support of containers in virtualized environments, IT departments get the means to protect, isolate and administer virtual machines, and developers have the opportunity to use high-performance and adaptive containers directly in vSphere.
 
VSphere Integrated Containers Components provides enterprise-class container solutions, ready to work in a production environment with three main components.
 
vSphere Integrated Container Engine is a module that supports the Docker Remote API, is fully integrated into vSphere and enables the creation of container images that run as VMs and their distribution to remote offices and branches.
 
The container management portal helps application support groups manage container repositories, images, and nodes, as well as run container instances. Role-based access control provides support for LDAP and Active Directory.
 
Container Registry is a secure container image repository with built-in role-based access control and image replication support. It provides scanning for vulnerabilities and trust in content using security policies and also supports third-party registries. The benefits of this cloud provider are the two important components of Project Harbor and Project Admiral.
 
Project Harbor is an enterprise-grade container registry for storing and distributing container images. Harbor extends the open-source Docker Distribution project by adding features that organizations need, such as security, authentication, and management.
 
Project Admiral is a management portal that provides developers with a user interface for initializing and administering containers. Cloud administrators can manage and control container servers, including capacity quotas and approval workflows. Integration with vRealize Automation provides additional features.

Heroku

Heroku is a cloud-based PaaS platform that supports a number of programming languages in the PaaS model as well as container services based on Docker. The ease of use of the container system in Herplu is the main advantage of this approach.
 
Heroku Container Registry allows you to deploy your Docker images to Heroku. Both, Common Runtime and Private Spaces are supported. 
 
Since Heroku is controlled by a simple and intuitive command interface, similarly in this cloud system we work with containers. For example, "heroku container: push web" writes your container to CaaS and you get a full range of commands for working with this container instance,
 
In addition, Heroku provides the ability to manage containers using the API, for example, curl and json configuration files. This is convenient and effective, in that you can now create a restful request with a json file from almost any system.
 
It is very useful that Heroku developers thought about adding CI / CD functions for continuous integration and continuous delivery, supporting systems such as CircleCI, Bamboo, TravisCI, Jenkins, and Codeship. This greatly simplifies the task at the stage of deployment and maintenance of projects.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can say that CaaS is now reliably included in cloud computing. This area is developing dynamically and helps in solving problems of software deployment and maintenance. Major cloud computing providers quickly realized that this type of service is very much in demand on the market because it is one of the most convenient forms of delivering applications to the cloud. CaaS, as a type of cloud service, competes with both IaaS and PaaS systems, and standardization of Docker images makes cloud systems interchangeable. 

As MarketWatch reported “The “Worldwide Container as a Service Market" is estimated to witness a CAGR of 34.48% during the forecast period 2016-2023. The CaaS market is analyzed based on four segments - application, deployment, verticals, and regions. Transition to a hybrid cloud and faster & flexible deployment are the main reasons to switch to CaaS. Microservices and cost savings are some of the factors driving the market. The container market is emerging and better tools are being developed, which would likely lead to increased adoption of CaaS in the next 5 years.”

Our experts will help you with solutions to your problems in cloud systems and configure your project for use with containers in CaaS.

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