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Container management: What it is and how it works

Containers and container management technology have reshaped how we develop, deploy, and manage applications. We’ve managed to collect and store an application and all its dependencies in containers, making it possible to run them consistently across various computing environments.

Some newcomers to development might take container technology for granted, but this solution addresses the age-old dilemma of software behaving differently in production than in development (a problem that plagued developers and IT teams).

Containers help simplify and streamline application development and deployment, and developers rely on them to get the job done. However, with more containers comes more responsibility, and that’s where container management software rises to the challenge.

Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about container management to better use, organize, orchestrate, and oversee large numbers of containers.

What is a container?

A container is a lightweight, standalone package of software that includes everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system tools, libraries, and settings. By virtualizing the operating system instead of the entire hardware stack, containers allow applications to run in isolated environments while utilizing the same kernel. This ensures that developers can deploy applications consistently across different computing environments, promoting efficiency and reducing compatibility issues.

In contrast to containers, virtual machines include full copies of an operating system, hardware emulation, and typically have a larger footprint, resulting in more resource consumption.

What is container management?

Container management is the process of organizing, scaling, and maintaining containerized applications across various environments. It involves container orchestration, which automates the deployment, networking, scaling, and lifecycle management of containers, typically through platforms like Kubernetes. Effective container management ensures efficient resource use, streamlined workflows, and high availability of applications in the cloud or on-premises infrastructures.

It includes a range of activities for containers:

  • Creating

  • Deploying

  • Monitoring

  • Securing

  • Scaling

  • Networking

  • Load balancing

  • Updating and patching

  • Logging and reporting

  • Troubleshooting and fixing

  • Resource allocation

  • Lifecycle management

Container technology has revolutionized how applications are built and deployed by making them more modular and scalable. However, containers’ very benefits (such as their portability and efficiency) also introduce brand-new challenges.

When you have potentially hundreds or thousands of containers running across multiple environments, keeping track of them all becomes a complex responsibility, and that’s where container management comes into play.

Container management software simplifies this complexity. These tools provide a framework for deploying, scaling, and operating containerized applications. They offer features such as:

  • Orchestration: Automating the deployment, scaling, and operations of containers.

  • Provisioning: Allocating resources to containers and ensuring their optimal operation.

  • Load balancing: Distributing container workload evenly across an infrastructure to optimize resource use and prevent overload.

  • Monitoring and logging: Keeping track of container performance and activities for troubleshooting and optimization.

  • Security management: Securing containers from external threats and keeping them compliant with industry standards.

How does container management work?

Container management starts with the creation and configuration of containers. Each container is set up with the necessary components to run an application (application code, runtime, system tools, libraries, etc.). This ensures the application environment remains consistent across different container deployment scenarios.

Once you’ve created your containers, it’s time to work on the orchestration aspect. This involves automating the deployment and operation of these containers to manage the scheduling of containers across a cluster of machines. This helps make intelligent decisions about where to run containers based on resource availability, constraints, and inter-container dependencies.

Beyond that, your container management platform will handle scaling and load balancing. As the demand on an application fluctuates, these systems dynamically adjust the number of active containers, scaling up during peak times and down during quieter periods. They also manage load balancing, which evenly distributes incoming application traffic across all containers.

Why developers need container management

Container management software has evolved beyond mere convenience—now it’s downright necessary to address challenges, unlock opportunities, and streamline development. Here’s why developers desperately need container management:

Streamlined development and deployment

Container management ensures consistency across different development, testing, and production environments, reducing the “it works on my machine” syndrome. With containers, deployment becomes quicker and more efficient. Container management automates and simplifies deployment processes, reducing the time to market for new features and updates.

Improved scalability and performance

Container management tools allow for easy scaling of applications. Developers can quickly scale up or down based on demand to ensure optimal performance without overutilizing resources. Containers are lightweight and require fewer resources than traditional virtual machines, enabling developers to maximize hardware utilization and performance.

Enhanced collaboration and version control

Containers encapsulate application dependencies to make it easier for teams to collaborate without conflicts arising from differing development environments. Container management integrates seamlessly with version control systems, streamlining the development process and ensuring every team member works with the same codebase and dependencies.

Robust security

Container management platforms offer robust security features, including automated scanning for vulnerabilities and enforcing security policies. Containers also provide a level of isolation between applications to reduce the risk of conflicts and enhance security.

Simplified maintenance and monitoring

Container management can automate updating and patching applications to ensure that security and performance enhancements are consistently applied. These systems provide built-in monitoring tools to allow developers to track application performance and resource usage in real-time.

Cross-environment versatility

Container management solutions are designed to work across various platforms and cloud environments. This gives developers the flexibility to deploy applications in diverse infrastructures. It facilitates hybrid and multi-cloud deployments to allow developers to leverage the best features of each cloud service provider.

Common roadblocks and challenges in container management

Container management solves many development issues but also introduces a few challenging complexities. Here are some of the common problems (and solutions) you can anticipate:

Complexity of setup:

  • Problem: Managing a large number of containers, especially in a distributed environment, can be overwhelming without the right tools.

  • Solutions: DigitalOcean simplifies the complexity with user-friendly interfaces and streamlined processes to make the setup and management of container environments more accessible to teams of all sizes.

Security issues:

  • Problem: Containers share the same operating systems kernel, and a vulnerability in the kernel can potentially affect all containers.

  • Solution: DigitalOcean provides robust security features, including automated vulnerability scanning and easy-to-implement security policies.

Scalability and resource allocation:

  • Problem: Efficiently allocating resources to prevent underutilization or overloading of containers requires sophisticated management.

  • Solution: DigitalOcean provides features like auto-scaling and load balancing to optimize resource allocation and allow containers to perform efficiently under varying loads.

How software and tools help with container management

You’ll likely need tailor-made software and tools to manage your containers effectively. These tools address various aspects, from deployment and orchestration to monitoring and security.

Here’s how the right container management software platforms can streamline development and deployment:

  • Automated deployment: Container management tools automate the process of deploying containers to ensure consistency and efficiency. Tools like Kubernetes and Docker Swarm allow for easy deployment of containers across different environments.

  • Orchestration: These tools handle the orchestration of containers, which involves managing the lifecycle of containers (including their creation, scaling, and termination).

  • Dynamic scaling: Software enables dynamic scaling to adjust the number of active containers automatically based on current demand, ensuring optimal resource utilization.

  • Load balancing: Container management platforms distribute workloads evenly across containers to maintain system stability and performance. This helps handle high traffic and prevents any single container from becoming a bottleneck.

  • Real-time monitoring: Container monitoring tools integrated into container management platforms provide real-time insights into container performance, resource usage, and health. This data helps with proactive maintenance and troubleshooting.

  • Security enforcement: Management tools come with built-in security tools and features. They enforce security policies, perform vulnerability scanning, and confirm isolation between containers.

  • Networking: These tools offer solutions for container networking to make it easier to set up and manage network communication within and between containers.

  • Storage integration: Management tools provide solutions for integrating and managing storage (essential for applications that require persistent data storage).

Streamline your development and deployment with DigitalOcean

Containers are key to software development, but they’re challenging to control without the right container management tools. The right container platform simplifies container management processes and amplifies scalability, efficiency, security, and performance.

DigialOcean’s container management solutions streamline development and efficient deployment. Whether you’re a small startup or a large enterprise, our tools and services are tailored to meet your container management needs:

  • Kubernetes: DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) simplifies things with a container orchestration platform. It’s designed for developers who want to seamlessly deploy, manage, and scale applications in a Kubernetes environment.

  • Container Registry: DigitalOcean Container Registry (DOCR) offers a Container Registry that seamlessly integrates with Kubernetes and Docker to provide a secure and private space for storing and managing container images.

  • Load Balancers: DigitalOcean’s Load Balancers efficiently distribute traffic across your infrastructure to increase application availability and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

  • API and CLI: Manage your container ecosystem more efficiently using DigitalOcean’s API and CLI tools. These allow for automation and easy integration into your existing development workflows.

  • Volumes for persistent storage: DigitalOcean Volumes offer scalable block container storage tools, providing a reliable and efficient way to manage data for your containerized applications (especially when dealing with stateful applications).

Ready to streamline your development and deployment processes? See how DigitalOcean can transform the way you manage containers and help you achieve improved efficiency and faster deployment.

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