Skip to Content

Containerization: What is it and how can it help you?

Bernard Drost
11 May 2022

What is containerization and how can it help you achieve sustainable IT, optimized costs, and accelerated innovation?

Almost every business could benefit by adopting – or scaling its use of – containerization. Amid increasing energy price volatility, rising pressure to adopt sustainable IT practices, and the ever-present need to deliver new products and services faster and for less, containerization is unique as a technology in that it can be considered part of the solution to all these challenges. Similarly, containerization can be used to accelerate progress toward a variety of goals, such as cloud adoption, industry 4.0, IT transformation, business transformation, digital transformation, and much more.

You’ve read about how great containerization is and what it can help with, but let’s start at the beginning … What is containerization (or containerization) and what are the advantages of using containers versus other technologies and approaches to deploying and operating applications and services?

What is containerization? What is a container?

Containerization is a software-deployment technology and approach that enables software products and applications (the code, as well as components like libraries, frameworks and other dependencies) to be packaged into self-contained components that are easy to deploy, scale, and update.

Software and services are thus packaged into containers. Like real-world, physical containers (i.e., the metal boxes used to send cargo from one location to another), they are (relatively) lightweight and portable, and can be deployed or moved across a variety of different infrastructure platforms. In the context of software, this means that containerized applications are not dependent on the infrastructure platform (e.g., public cloud, private cloud, or your proprietary data center) and do not require their own copy of a specific operating system.

Prior to the mainstream adoption of containerization, the most popular way to deploy applications was by using virtualization or virtual machines. Virtualization was a key enabler to cloud adoption, but containerization provides the means to accelerate the journey and reap greater benefits.

The differences between containerization and virtualization

The key differences between containers and virtual machines are:

  • Abstraction. Virtual machines are abstractions of physical servers (hardware). The hypervisor enables multiple virtual machines to run on one physical server. Containers serve as the app (software) layer that packages code and dependencies together.
  • Operating system. Multiple containers can work on one virtual machine and share the same OS kernel, despite running in isolation. Every virtual machine requires a full copy of the operating system.
  • Complexity. Containers run in isolation, with everything they need packaged inside the container. Apps on virtual machines are typically dependent on libraries and/or scripts, which means they typically require more work to deploy, test, and operate.
  • Size. Containers are normally measured in tens of megabytes. Virtual machines typically take up tens of gigabytes. Size, plus dependencies, can make virtual machines slow to boot and means they often require more support and maintenance.

Although both technologies and approaches have a key role to play in business IT, containerization provides advantages in that it enables quicker and easier deployment and migration, and can help reduce the number of operating systems and virtual machines required by a business. As a result, a well-executed adoption, scale up, and operation of a containerization platform can enable a business to accelerate its cloud-native development and innovation, optimize costs (e.g., reduce spend on energy, cloud, and virtual machines, and divert it toward innovation), and reduce the carbon footprint of its IT (e.g., through better utilization of existing resources and reduced energy bills from IT). 

What are the key use cases for containerization?

In addition to the cost, carbon footprint, and innovation benefits, container adoption can help you accelerate and improve your success in several key business and IT areas:

Cloud adoption. Containerization can help you move workloads to the cloud and across various cloud types and providers, and a well implemented, properly operated containerization platform can provide a standardized way to develop, deploy, secure, and operate workloads. Containerization also enables organizations to develop services centrally and then push them to edge locations for maximum benefit.

IT transformation. Containers are key to enabling application modernization, and to FinOps, sustainable IT, and overall IT modernization efforts. In this regard, containerization contributes to faster delivery, lower support costs, and better use of existing resources (e.g., physical servers and procured cloud infrastructure).

Industry 4.0 (what we like to call Intelligent Industry). Success in the fourth industrial revolution will require effective deployment and use of IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and more. It will also require the ability to simulate various scenarios using digital twins, connect microservices quickly and effectively using APIs, and accelerate the development, testing, and deployment of MVPs and new services. Containerization is a key enabler for all of these technologies and ambitions.

Business innovation. Technologies and approaches like microservices, digital twins, data science, machine learning, and cloud-native application development have key roles to play in the pursuit of business innovation. Containerization provides the technology to develop and operate microservices at scale. It also enables computing power to be accessed and scaled on demand to support data science, machine learning, and digital twins. What’s more, containers are an efficient and quick-to-deploy way of hosting, deploying, scaling, and operating cloud-native products and applications.   

Key concepts and terms around containerization

When talking about containerization, there are some key terms to be aware of. Among the most popular are:

  • Container orchestration (Kubernetes) is the automated management, deployment, scheduling, and networking of containers. Kubernetes is the industry standard container orchestrator.
  • DevSecOps tooling is a collective term for the development, security, and operations tools needed to build and operate containers. DevSecOps tooling facilitates increased delivery velocity using automation.
  • Container platform (DevSecOps platform and cloud-native development platform)combines DevSecOps tooling and Kubernetes to provide all the platform-level capabilities to develop, run, and operate container-based products and applications. Red Hat OpenShift® is the best example of a fully integrated and supported containerization platform.
  • Cloud native is a term that covers both application and platform development. In the context of platform development, it means to use as much of the cloud provider native services as possible. In the context of application development, it means to build software that is designed to work natively with the cloud.

Containerization is an important technology that is relevant to businesses of all shapes and sizes, as well as to a broad range of strategic and operational ambitions. To learn more about how you can use containerization to accelerate your progress against your business objectives, check out Capgemini’s Containerization Service with Red Hat.