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5 Best Practices for Using a Container Platform

In this post, we’ll dive into the world of container platforms and explore five best practices to help you make the most of this technology.

Containers have become a popular way to package and deploy applications in recent years, making the development and deployment process more efficient and scalable. In this post, we’ll dive into the world of container platforms and explore five best practices to help you make the most of this technology. 

What Is a Container Platform, and Why Is it Important?

A container platform is a system that allows you to create, deploy, and manage containers, which are lightweight, portable, and self-contained units that package an application along with all its dependencies. 

The main advantage of using a container platform is that it simplifies the development process and makes it easier to move applications between different environments, such as development, testing, and production. To better understand container platforms, let’s briefly compare them to virtualization technologies like VMware

Virtualization involves running multiple instances of operating systems on a single physical server. At the same time, container platforms enable you to run multiple containers, each containing an application and its dependencies, on a single host. In addition, containers are more lightweight and faster to start than virtual machines because they share the host’s operating system, while VMs each run their own OS. With this basic understanding of container platforms, let’s address a couple of common questions: 

Why use a container platform? Container platforms offer several advantages over traditional deployment methods, such as improved portability, faster deployment times, efficient resource utilization, and easier scalability. 

Is Docker a containerization platform? Docker has become synonymous with containers, and it played a significant role in popularizing this technology. However, it’s worth noting that other container platforms are available, such as Kubernetes, OpenShift, and Rancher. 

Are containers platform as a service (PaaS)? Containers are not platform as a service (PaaS) but can be part of a PaaS solution. PaaS is a cloud computing model that provides a platform for developers to build, deploy, and manage applications, and it often includes container orchestration and management tools. Now, let’s lay out the five best container platform practices.   

Virtualization involves running multiple instances of operating systems on a single physical server.

Choose the Right Container Platform

Before diving into containers, take the time to evaluate and choose the best container platform for your needs. Making the right choice is crucial to the success of your containerized applications. Several container platforms are available, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Some popular options include Docker, Kubernetes, OpenShift, and Rancher. To make an informed decision, consider the following factors: 

Project Requirements and Complexity

Evaluate the requirements and complexity of your project. For instance, Docker is known for its simplicity and ease of use, making it suitable for small to medium-sized projects or projects with less complex orchestration needs. On the other hand, Kubernetes is designed for managing more complex, large-scale deployments with advanced orchestration capabilities, making it ideal for enterprise-level projects. 

Integration with Existing Tools and Infrastructure

Consider how well the container platform integrates with your existing tools and infrastructure. For example, if you already use a specific cloud provider or other DevOps tools, look for a container platform that integrates seamlessly with those technologies. OpenShift, for instance, is built on top of Kubernetes and provides better integration with the Red Hat ecosystem, making it an attractive choice if you’re already using Red Hat products. 

Community Support and Ecosystem

The strength of a container platform’s community and ecosystem is essential for long-term success. A vibrant community means more resources, better documentation, and faster resolution of issues. Docker and Kubernetes, for example, have large and active communities, which makes it easier to find help and resources when needed. 

Scalability and Performance

Evaluate the container platform’s scalability and performance capabilities. If you expect your application to grow and require more resources over time, choose a platform to handle the increased load. Kubernetes is known for its powerful scaling capabilities, which makes it a popular choice for applications requiring high scalability levels. 

Cost and Licensing

Consider the cost and licensing implications of each container platform. While some platforms, like Docker and Kubernetes, are open-source and free to use, others, like OpenShift and Rancher, offer enterprise versions with additional features and support at a cost. So be sure to factor in the cost of licensing, support, and any additional features you may require. 

Learning Curve and Ease of Use

Finally, consider the container platform’s learning curve and ease of use. While some platforms like Docker are relatively easy to learn and start with, others like Kubernetes have steeper learning curves. Choose a platform that matches your team’s skill level and is easy to adopt. Consider these factors and you’ll be able to choose the right container platform for your project. This helps ensure that you can fully harness the benefits of containerization while minimizing potential pitfalls.

Choose a platform that matches your team’s skill level and is easy to adopt.

Optimize Container Images

Optimizing container images can reduce deployment times, improve performance, and minimize security risks. To optimize your container images, follow these best practices: 

  • Use minimal base images: Choose the smallest base image that meets your application’s requirements. This approach helps reduce the size of the container image and minimizes the attack surface.
  • Remove unnecessary files: Be selective about the files you include in your container image. Remove any files that are not needed for your application to run.
  • Use multi-stage builds: Multi-stage builds allow you to separate the build and runtime environments, which can help reduce the final image size.

Implement Proper Security Measures

Security is a critical aspect of container platform management. To ensure the security of your containers, follow these best practices: 

  • Regularly scan container images for vulnerabilities: Use vulnerability scanning tools to identify and fix security issues in your container images.
  • Use least privilege principles: Limit the permissions granted to containers to the minimum required for the application to function correctly.
  • Isolate container networks: Use network segmentation to isolate containers from each other and restrict communication between them. This helps reduce the attack surface and limits the potential impact of a compromised container.

Implement Monitoring and Logging

Monitoring and logging are essential for maintaining the health and performance of your containerized applications. Implementing these practices will help you detect and troubleshoot issues more effectively. Here are some tips for effective monitoring and logging: 

  • Collect metrics: Monitor key container metrics, such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network activity, to gain insight into the performance of your applications and infrastructure.
  • Use centralized logging: Implement a centralized logging solution to aggregate logs from all containers, making searching and analyzing log data easier.
  • Set up alerts: Configure alerts based on predefined thresholds to notify you when an issue arises, allowing you to take prompt action.

Automate Container Lifecycle Management

Automating container lifecycle management can help you streamline the deployment process. Additionally it helps reduce human error, and ensure consistent application behavior across environments. Here are some best practices for automating container management: 

  • Use infrastructure as code (IaC) tools: IaC tools, such as Terraform or Ansible, allow you to define your infrastructure as code, making it easier to manage, version, and deploy your container platform.
  • Implement CI/CD pipelines: Automated CI/CD pipelines streamline the construction, examination, and deployment of applications that are containerized, ensuring dependable and uniform deployments.
  • Use container orchestration tools: Tools for orchestrating containers, like Kubernetes or Docker Swarm, streamline the process of deploying, scaling, and controlling container-based applications, simplifying the management of extensive deployments.

By following these best practices for using a container platform, you can harness the power of containers.

Moving On

By following these best practices for using a container platform, you can harness the power of containers. With this power, you can build and deploy applications more efficiently, securely, and reliably. Remember to choose the right container platform for your needs and optimize your container images. Additionally, don’t forget to implement proper security measures, monitor your containers, and automate container lifecycle management. That way you will be able to get the most out of this powerful technology. 

This post was written by Juan Reyes. As an entrepreneur, skilled engineer, and mental health champion, Juan pursues sustainable self-growth, embodying leadership, wit, and passion. With over 15 years of experience in the tech industry, Juan has had the opportunity to work with some of the most prominent players in mobile development, web development, and e-commerce in Japan and the US.