Getting Into Containers

Small packages. Big value.

By Bob Rhubart

November/December 2017

In the continuing quest to examine the point at which trends in IT and architecture gain traction with reality, I thought it was about time to focus on containers and their use among members of the community. Are these standalone, executable packages of code, runtime, and system tools making a difference in the work of architects and developers?

Lucas Jellema, CTO at AMIS in the Netherlands, Oracle ACE Director, and Oracle Developer Champion, confesses to being strongly influenced by containers. “Containers have been a catalyst for my thinking about application and platform architectures,” he says. “The importance of stateless applications in order to allow horizontal scalability and easy failover is a drastic shift from the heavy, session-oriented server-side web applications of the past 15 years.”

On a personal, practical level, Jellema uses containers to make better use of the laptop he uses for R&D. “I used to quickly make a mess of my laptop with new tools, platforms, and frameworks I was experimenting with,” he says. Virtual machines offered some help but were subject to his laptop’s memory and hard disk limitations. “Containers are lightweight; can easily be shared with colleagues; and are simply available, ready to use for most popular technologies, saving me lots of time and anguish,” he explains.

Oracle ACE Associate Maarten Smeets, senior integration consultant with AMIS, also sees enormous value in the use of containers and distinct advantages over the alternatives, “especially large-scale application server implementations,” he notes. Containers offer relief from a number of issues, including difficulties in providing large-scale implementations when using application servers, problems with automatically provisioning and scaling stateful application servers, and the impact on availability when an entire system must be shut down to resolve certain issues.

Containers are lightweight; can easily be shared with colleagues; and are simply available, ready to use for most popular technologies.” –Lucas Jellema, CTO, AMIS

Smeets appreciates that containers offer an additional benefit through their compatibility with Node.js, the wildly popular JavaScript runtime. “This makes JavaScript skills useful for different layers in the stack and also makes it possible to reduce the amount of translations and layers that have to be made to go from front end to back end.” It all adds up to reduced development effort, easier environment management, and optimized performance.

But despite the clear benefits, Smeets says his customers aren’t quite in step. “Most customers I work with implement application servers or database-bound integration platforms—not the most suitable match for containerization,” he says. But, he predicts, the limitations of those architectures and the benefits of using containers will force the foot-draggers to reconsider containers.

Dr. Frank Munz, Oracle ACE Director, Oracle Developer Champion, software architect, and cloud evangelist, reports that at least two of his customers had no reluctance at all to adopting containers. “Both were cloud-native projects. Both used Docker. None of them ever faced any container-specific issues,” he says. “In one project, the decision for Docker was made simply because it seemed to be part of a modern development stack. And in the end, it turned out to be a great fit. In the other project, there was a major concern about the vendor lock-in with a particular cloud provider and therefore the decision for Docker was obvious.”

Have containers become an obvious choice in your work? Join in the discussion and share your experience.

Next Steps

WATCH No Pain, No Gain—Getting Started with Containers.

WATCH Basic Help for Docker Noobs.

WATCH Running WebLogic Applications on Docker Using Oracle Container Cloud Service.

Photography by The Good Brigade, Michael McElroy/The Verbatim Agency