Application Containerization: How CTOs Can Drive Business Transformation

14 Jun 2024

Netflix, the first of its kind in the world of streaming, vividly illustrates how businesses integrate the latest technology to maintain their competitive edge.

While migrating some of its services to containers, Netflix encountered a few challenges, which led to the development of its container management platform, Titus.

Now, Netflix runs services such as video streaming, content-encoding, recommendations, machine learning, studio technology, big data, and internal tools within containers totaling 200,000 clusters and half a million containers per day.

Organizations are adopting containerization to develop new applications and improve existing ones to keep pace with the ever-changing digital market. According to an IBM® survey, around 61% of container users said they had used containers for at least half of their new apps in the past two years, while 64% plan to containerize over half of their current apps in the next two years. Enterprise application modernization solutions are essential in this transition, helping businesses stay competitive and agile.

This blog will discuss application containerization's challenges, benefits, and use cases. Before we get into details, let's define containerization.

What is Application Containerization?

Application Containerization is the execution of software applications in separate packages called containers. Application containers store everything required to run an application, including files, libraries, and environment variables. So, regardless of the operating system they're on, the applications work smoothly without rendering compatibility issues.

Containerizing applications speeds development, improves efficiency, and enhances security by separating them from hardware and other software dependencies. Containers can run on any host operating system while being isolated. Containers power major services like Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail. Google also developed Kubernetes and Knative, popular open-source platforms for managing containers and applications.

How Does Application Containerization Technology Work?

Containers generate representations of code authored on one system along with its corresponding configurations, dependencies, libraries, etc. These representations function as container engines that are compatible with various platforms.

The primary aim of containers is to segregate programmed software from diverse computing environments. This facilitates consistent code execution across different platforms, regardless of variations in development environments and practices.

Furthermore, containerization technology acts as a host operating system. Nevertheless, they are distinct from parent operating systems, as discussed previously.

When To Use Containerized Applications?

In contemporary business landscapes, containers are frequently used to host programs, and they work particularly well for the following use cases:

  • Microservices

    Applications based on microservices comprise numerous separate parts, most deployed inside the containers. Together, the various containers create an organized application. This application design technique benefits effective scaling and upgrading. When handling increased load, the containers with the highest load must be scaled, not the entire application. Similarly, individual containers may be modified as opposed to the whole program.

  • CI/CD Pipelines

    Containerized apps enable teams to test applications in parallel and accelerate their Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. Additionally, testing a containerized application in a test environment gives a close representation of its performance in production because containers are portable between host systems.

  • Repetitive Jobs

    Bulk and database jobs are periodic background tasks that work well with containers. Each operation can operate thanks to containers without interfering with other concurrent jobs.

  • DevOps

    An application's consistent and lightweight runtime environment can be quickly created with containerized apps. This helps DevOps teams to build, test, launch, and even iterate applications as they wish.

4 Key Limitations of Containerized Applications

Despite being extremely beneficial, containers come with some limitations:

1. Limited Security Features

Namespaces enable each container on a host to get allocated resources from the host operating system and separate the processes running inside the container from those outside it. Any vulnerability in the host operating system might pose a threat to all its containers because they run on the same OS. Moreover, if network settings have been compromised, an attacker who gains access to one container can easily access other containers or the host.

2. No Built-in Persistent Storage

The data contained in a running container will vanish whenever it is stopped. A persistent file system is required to save the data. Most orchestration tools enable persistent storage, while vendors' products differ in quality and execution.

3. Possibility of Sprawl

While the rapid generation of containers is beneficial, it can also lead to unmanaged container sprawl and increased administrative complexity.

4. Monitoring Challenges

Teams often struggle to keep track of running containers because they spin up and down rapidly. Manual tracking containers are rigid because they churn 12 times quicker than regular hosts.

4 Benefits of Containerized Applications for Modern Development

Application containerization enhances speed, efficiency, and security by isolating various functions from hardware dependencies and other software components. Containerized applications offer a host of advantages that include:

1. Isolation

Since containerized applications exist in an isolated environment away from other apps and system components, any issues occurring within one app do not affect others or the underlying system components. This containment effectively limits the scope of potential bug incidents.

2. Portability

Because they are independent of the operating system, containerized applications are portable across different environments, such as servers, virtual machines, developers' computers, and the cloud.

3. Lightweight

Containers are more efficient than virtual machines since they do not carry the entire operating system, making them lighter.

4. Efficiency

Containerized applications effectively use a machine's resources by sharing computing capabilities and application layers, allowing multiple containers to run simultaneously on the same machine or virtual environment.

5. Scalability

Increasing container instances to accommodate growing application demands is a smooth process in application containerization.

Companies Saving Costs Through Containerization

While VMs and containers center on ‘virtualizing’ a particular computational resource, containers are often favored over VMs. This is because VMs require more overhead when compared with containerization technologies.

Regardless of the OS, another advantage that virtual machines (VMs) support is that this allows a corporation to run several servers virtually from one system or more. Containers, in turn, manage an application and can spin up and down instances in seconds, as they are lightweight.

Let us look at examples to understand how containerization helps companies cut costs.

1. Spotify

Challenge: Spotify faced challenges managing increased workload when the platform experienced a hike in active users, reaching over 200 million monthly subscribers.

Solution: To handle this, Spotify-

  • Containerized its microservices, which ran on virtual machines (VMs) earlier.

  • Developed a container orchestration platform, which was later named Helios. These changes aimed to boost development speed and cut costs.

Result: In terms of implementation, the company -

  • Managed workloads, clusters, and instances through containerization.

  • Established a Docker-based orchestration platform for managing all Spotify containers and servers. Helios featured an HTTP API for interacting with servers hosting the containers.

  • Integrated Kubernetes with Docker to expedite development and operational tasks.

2. Financial Times

Challenge: Financial Times, the newspaper giant, dealt with enormous content on its platform. The team’s goal was to minimize the costs associated with the operation of AWS servers.

Solution: They accomplished this by upgrading their framework and shifting to containers, resulting in an 80% reduction in cloud server management costs. Here are some strategies they employed while using Docker as a container -

  • Increased the frequency of new updates from 12 to 2,200.
  • Ensured platform stability regardless of deployment volume and size.

Result: The development team focused on supporting the health of the tech cluster and minimizing server costs. As a result, they-

  • Created a private container orchestration platform based on Kubernetes.

  • Containerized the tech stack, which consisted of 150 microservices.

3. Pinterest

Challenge: Pinterest had to deal with additional work and hosting costs for the numerous images posted on the site. To make suitable investments, it looked for new technology.

Solution: The team aimed to -

  • Add complex services and features to Pinterest without requiring fine-grained control.
  • Enhance performance, functional reliability, and user experience using Docker.

Result: Here are the containerized processes that helped Pinterest avoid hefty expenses in the long run -

  • All service-specific dependencies were integrated into what they term service containers. This method ensures that only one AMI is transferred among all development systems.

  • Developed a tool named Telefig for launching and stopping containers as needed. The tool helps manage all container-influencing dependencies.

  • Implemented container orchestration methodologies. It establishes a multi-tenant cluster system for consolidating batch tasks.

The above examples demonstrate that containerization can reduce costs and enhance productivity. Mainstream companies such as Spotify, Financial Times, and Pinterest have used containers to address the challenges of handling additional workloads and operational costs and improving the efficiency of the development and delivery processes. Containerization is not only an efficient way of resource management but also promotes change and growth in complex environments.

Key Platforms and Core Elements of Containerized Applications

Some of the popular platforms for containerized applications include:

  • Docker

    Docker is an open-source software platform for generating, deploying, and overseeing virtualized application containers on a shared operating system (OS) alongside a network of associated tools.

  • LXC

    LXC is a Linux container runtime comprising tools, templates, libraries, and language connections. It's quite basic, highly adaptable, and includes nearly all containment features supported by the upstream kernel.

  • rkt

    rkt, also called Rocket, is a container engine that lets you manage individual containers or work with Docker containers while giving you more flexibility and control over your containerized applications.

  • CRI-O

    The Container Runtime Interface (CRI) for the container management platform enables OCI-compatible runtimes. It is frequently used instead of Docker containers with Kubernetes.

Components of a Standard Containerized Application Setup

The core components of a standard containerized application setup consist of three main elements:

  • Container Engines

    Tools like Docker container, CRI-O, Containerd, and Windows Containers reduce the administrative expenses required to manage applications and make them easy to launch and shift between environments.

  • Container Orchestrators

    Platforms such as Kubernetes and OpenShift manage large numbers of containers, automate deployment, and guarantee smooth operation.

  • Managed Kubernetes Services

    Platforms like Amazon EKS and Google GKE make managing Kubernetes easy. They simplify setup and operation even for organizations with less experience.

Maximize Your Business Impact with Containerization

Containerization plays a crucial role in smooth and successful DevOps implementation, promoting the development of applications that could have been difficult to build on a system natively. Whether a startup or a big enterprise, containerization offers agility, portability, flexibility, and speed. Containers make various environments like development, testing, and production identical. So, you don't need to depend on operations teams to ensure that different servers run the same software.


  1. What is an example of a container application?

Docker is a widely accepted form of containerization that allows software developers to bundle their applications into standardized isolated containers. Docker simplifies application execution on any system, irrespective of its underlying infrastructure.

  1. Can we containerize any application?

In theory, most apps can be containerized, but whether the strategy will be successful depends on factors like the application's design, dependencies, and resource requirements. Hence, each application should be checked to determine if containerization can be implemented and its benefits. Web applications, microservices, stateless applications, development and testing environments, and CI/CD pipelines are some examples of applications that could be containerized.

  1. What are the future trends in containerization technology?

The containerization technology is prospering and has rapidly expanded. In the DevOps realm, Kubernetes and Docker are gaining traction among developers because they keep updating to meet market demands. As microservice architecture gains momentum, these tools make it easier for teams to manage containers and infrastructure. In other words, new features can roll out faster, fitting smoothly into the ongoing development and delivery process.