Everything You Want To Know About Software Containers

Everything You Want To Know About Software Containers

Learn in depth what they are, what they are for and what business applications software containers have.

What are software containers

Software containers are a form of virtualization that allows applications to run in isolation in a shared environment. Containers are much lighter than virtual machines , making them more efficient and easier to manage.

Simply put, containers in computing are like magic boxes that can store programs and everything they need to function. Imagine that they are like special Lego boxes for software.

Inside these boxes, we put a program, like a game on a video game console . But we don’t just provide the game, we also provide all the things that the game needs, such as graphics, sounds and game rules. Thus, the game works the same wherever we put that magic box.

What are computer containers for?

Containers help programmers make their programs easier to move and use on different computers, regardless of the size of the system or the operating environment used ( Windows , Mac or Linux ). They keep applications isolated from each other and allow their development to be automated.

Brief history

The history of computing containers dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, with the emergence of isolation concepts in Unix/Linux systems (Chroot, Virtuozzo and OpenVZ) . However, it was in 2013 that Docker , founded by Solomon Hykes , revolutionized container computing by introducing an easy-to-use container platform. This led to an explosion in the popularity of container technology in software development.

Containers in computing are like magic boxes that can store programs and everything they need to function.

To standardize this technology, the Open Container Initiative (OCI ) was founded in 2015 , which established open standards for image formatting and container execution. At the same time, Kubernetes , developed by Google , became a standard for container orchestration, simplifying the management and scalability of containerized applications in production environments.

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Advantages of software containers

Containers provide portability, isolation, resource efficiency, faster development, scalability, simplified maintenance, and support for modern software development practices. These advantages make them a valuable tool in the world of computing and application development.


Containers provide a high level of isolation, meaning that each container acts as an independent unit . This prevents applications from conflicting with each other and ensures greater security and stability.


Containers encapsulate an application along with its dependencies and configurations, making them highly portable . You can run the same container in different environments, such as operating systems , public or private clouds, without worrying about differences in the underlying environment.

Resource efficiency

Containers share the host operating system core , making them lighter compared to virtual machines. This allows multiple containers to run on a single physical server, optimizing resource usage and reducing costs.

Faster development

Containers allow developers to work in environments that are identical or very similar to production ones . This speeds development and reduces the possibility of problems caused by differences in environments.


Containers are highly scalable . You can replicate and orchestrate multiple containers of an application to meet traffic or user demand, making it easy to adapt to changes in workload.

Simple maintenance

Container management is simpler and more efficient. You can define a container’s configuration in a file (such as a Dockerfile ) and replicate it across different environments. This simplifies version and update management.

Automation and DevOps

Containers are a fundamental part of DevOps and CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) practices They make it easy to automate deployments and upgrades, speeding up the development and deployment cycle.

Version management

Containers enable efficient management of application versions. You can maintain multiple versions of an app and switch between them seamlessly.

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Container security

Software container security is the process of using security tools and policies to protect all aspects of containerized applications from potential risks.

The main security risks of containers include malware infection , exposure of sensitive data , and lack of proper configuration . Malware infection can allow an attacker to take control of the application, while exposing sensitive data, such as passwords or credit card numbers, is a latent risk. Additionally, failure to properly configure containers could give attackers unauthorized access .

To protect software containers, it is essential to implement a series of security measures. This includes verifying the security of images and containers in the supply chain , ensuring that the infrastructure used to run the containers is secure, and protecting the containers during their runtime.

In this sense, there are various security tools and policies that can be used to safeguard software containers. These tools include vulnerability scanning , static code analysis , and dynamic code analysis , all aimed at ensuring the security of containers and the applications they contain. Container security is essential in an environment where efficiency and agility must not compromise the integrity and protection of systems.

Software containers or virtual machine, which is better?

In traditional virtualization, whether on-premises or in the cloud, a hypervisor is used to virtualize physical hardware. Each virtual machine includes a guest operating system, a virtual replica of the hardware needed to run that operating system, plus the application itself and all its associated libraries and dependencies.

Containers do not virtualize the underlying hardware, but instead focus on virtualizing the operating system, usually based on Linux This means that each individual container houses only the application, its libraries, and any necessary dependencies. The absence of a guest operating system is the reason why containers are so lightweight, which translates into their speed and portability.

If complete isolation, running different operating systems, or an additional layer of security is required, virtual machines may be the right choice. However, if you prioritize efficiency, startup speed, portability, and scalability, containers are the best option. In many environments, both VMs and containers are used , depending on the specific requirements of each application and the balance between isolation and efficiency.

Applications of software containers

Software containers have a wide range of applications that are valuable in many industries.

Software development and continuous delivery (CI/CD)

Technologies like Docker and Kubernetes are essential in development and CI/CD environments to ensure application consistency and portability.

Cloud application deployment

Containers enable efficient resource management and scalability. Cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure offer native support for containers.

Microservices and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

Containers are a solid foundation for implementing SOA and microservices architectures . They make it easy to break down applications into small, manageable components, improving scalability and modularity.

Enterprise and legacy applications

Organizations use containers to modernize enterprise and legacy applications. This allows legacy applications to run in more modern environments and be easier to manage and maintain.

Security and compliance

Containers also have applications in the field of security and compliance . They can be used to isolate critical applications, reducing the attack surface and helping to protect sensitive data.

Server economics and consolidation

Companies can use containers to run multiple applications on the same physical server, optimizing resource usage and reducing operating costs.

Test and development environments

Containers allow development and testing teams to create isolated, reproducible environments to test new features and applications.

Data analysis and big data

Containers are used to create isolated environments for data analysis and big data processing tasks , making it easier to manage and scale these workloads.

IoT (Internet of Things) Applications

In the field of IoT , containers allow the deployment of applications and services on devices in an efficient and scalable way.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Some IaaS providers offer container-as-a-service solutions, making it easy to manage and scale containerized applications in the cloud.

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IaaS providers offering container-as-a-service solutions

Top IaaS providers offering container-as-a-service solutions are:

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS offers two container-as-a-service services: Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) . ECS is a serverless service that allows users to run containers without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. EKS is a managed service that provides a fully managed Kubernetes deployment .

Microsoft Azure

Azure offers two container-as-a-service services: Azure Container Service (AKS) and Azure Container Registry (ACR). AKS is a managed service that provides a fully managed Kubernetes deployment . ACR is a container image registry service that allows users to store and manage their container images.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

GCP offers two container-as-a-service services: Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE ) and Google App Engine. GKE is a managed service that provides a fully managed Kubernetes deployment . App Engine is a fully managed service that allows developers to run web and mobile applications without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure.

Tools to create and manage containers

Docker and Kubernetes are the two most popular tools, although there are also several alternatives.


Docker is a popular technology used in a wide range of applications. It can be used in development and testing, allowing the creation of consistent environments that are shareable between teams, which speeds up the development process and reduces errors. Additionally, in operations, Docker is valuable for building scalable and efficient IT infrastructures, reducing costs and improving the agility of organizations. Likewise, in the area of ​​cloud services, Docker makes it easy to create scalable and affordable services, allowing companies to quickly offer a wide variety of services to their customers.

Docker is made up of the following components:

• Docker Engine: The heart of Docker, this component is the core of the platform and is responsible for the creation, deployment and management of containers.

• Dockerfile: A text file that acts as a guide to building a container image, detailing the necessary steps and configurations.

• Container image: A file that contains all the essential elements to run an application, such as its code, configuration files, dependencies, and the underlying operating system.

• Container: A software entity that encompasses everything necessary for an application to function independently, including code, configuration, dependencies, and the operating system.

• Docker Hub: A container image repository where users can store, share, and access container images for free .


Kubernetes , also known as K8s , is an open source platform for automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes groups the containers that make up an application into logical units for easy management and discovery.

Kubernetes offers several features that enable organizations to manage containerized applications effectively. These features include automatic and flexible scalability , distribution across multiple environments (such as data centers, public and private clouds), the ability to keep applications running in the event of node or container failures, and a host of security measures . to protect containerized applications.

The components of Kubernetes are:

Control plane: The control plane forms the core of Kubernetes and has the responsibility of coordinating and providing services to users by orchestrating containers.

Worker nodes: Worker nodes are the machines that execute the containers, allowing them to function.

Capsules: A pod is made up of a set of containers that run together on the same node, working together.

Deployments: A deployment consists of a set of pods running on a cluster of nodes, providing an organized environment for applications.

Services: A service is a network entity that exposes pods to users, allowing them to access resources in a controlled manner.

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Alternative tools to Docker and Kubernetes

Podman: Podman is an alternative to Docker that provides a Docker-compatible command line interface, but without requiring a Daemon (process that runs in the background).

RKT (Rocket): RKT is an open source container engine that focuses on simplicity and security. Although its adoption is lower than Docker, it is still a solid option.

Containerd: Containerd is the underlying Docker component that manages the execution of containers. It can be used standalone to create and run containers without the additional layer of Docker.

OpenShift: OpenShift, developed by Red Hat , is a Kubernetes- based container platform that offers additional capabilities for developing, deploying, and managing containerized applications.

Nomad – HashiCorp Nomad is a container orchestration tool that focuses on simplicity and scalability. It allows you to manage the execution of applications and workloads in container and non-container environments.

Docker Swarm: Although Docker Swarm is part of the Docker suite, it is an orchestration tool used to manage Docker container clusters.

LXD (Linux Container Daemon): LXD is a container solution that provides operating system-level virtualization instead of traditional containers. It can be an option if you are looking for light and efficient virtualization.

Vagrant: Although not a container tool itself, Vagrant is an option for creating and managing virtualized development environments, including containers, virtual machines, and more.

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Container application sectors

In the technology space , containers play a fundamental role in running various applications, ranging from web and mobile applications to data software and other types. Netflix leverages containers to power its video streaming platform , resulting in agile scalability of its infrastructure to meet the growing demand of its users.

In the financial sector , containers are essential for running applications related to banking, e-commerce and other financial aspects. JPMorgan Chase employs containers to run its online banking applications , ensuring a consistent and reliable user experience for its customers.

In the world of healthcare , containers find application in running healthcare applications , including electronic health records and telehealth. The Mayo Clinic uses containers to power its patient management applications, resulting in more efficient and personalized medical care.

In the educational field , containers are a key tool for running applications related to online learning and classroom management . Harvard University embraces containers in its online learning applications, enabling a more versatile and accessible learning experience for its students.

In the government sphere , containers are used to run applications linked to public services and national security. The United States Department of Defense uses containers in its national security applications, thus strengthening the protection of its computer systems against cyber threats.

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