January 13, 2022

How CaaS Platforms Are Changing IT

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Container as a service (CaaS) platforms are being offered by cloud vendors. Prior to CaaS, platforms as a service (PaaS) were the most efficient way to develop apps, but they also provided a large number of features that were unnecessary. The primary draw of CaaS is its lower price tag. This is because cloud-based container platforms, as a narrow service, use far less resources than platforms as a service. CaaS offers a more tightly focused, much less wasteful platform, with tools specific to working with containers, which makes working with the platform much more efficient.

What Need Does CaaS Serve?

Many organizations are using apps to modernize their legacy systems and are relying on cloud-based services. CaaS offers a more streamlined way of developing these applications. This process allows users, who lack the necessary infrastructure for their own equipment, to access the cloud for their container service needs. In the last decade, application development has become one of the most important services offered by the cloud. Gartner has estimated 70% of PaaS users will switch to a cloud-based container service to create applications. 

Containers differ from virtual hardware by creating a virtual “operating system” rather than virtualizing the hardware stack. This was made possible by the introduction of the Docker container. This feature allows containers to run far more efficiently than virtual hardware, because it requires fewer resources, using only a small percentage of the memory, when compared to virtual hardware. For example, a computer capable of running six or seven virtual machines can operate tens, or perhaps even hundreds of containers. The ability to deploy and develop applications within a virtualized environment allows app development teams to easily replicate production and use environments.

Also Read: Choosing the Right Containerization: 10 Alternatives to Docker

What is a Cloud-based Container Platform?

Cloud-based container platforms are software systems, provided by a cloud vendor, that can be used to manage containerized applications. It’s a form of platforms as a service, but much more specific. While containers may not need a platform to operate, a platform of tools comes in handy for building and modifying containers. These platforms support governance, security, automation, orchestration, and customization. CaaS platforms include built-in auto scaling and orchestration features. They allow teams to build apps efficiently, providing high visibility and supporting rapid deployments. Cloud-based container platforms can lower costs by reducing both the infrastructure costs and the time needed to complete an applications project.

CaaS Features

The open architecture of CaaS allows users to move from cloud to cloud (or back to on-premises server systems). CaaS allows for the use of multi-cloud or hybrid cloud solutions for an organization. One of the benefits of CaaS is that it offers a flexible, simple path to access all the benefits PaaS “had provided” but at a lower price and with greater efficiency

Fast development 

Creating applications while using cloud-based containers is a quick and efficient process. The SUSE CaaS Platform, for example, promises a reduced time to market as one of its platform capabilities.

Easy collaboration 

CaaS platforms are flexible enough for several employees to work with the same container code from different computers. After their efforts have been completed, they can save the updated version online. Docker containers are known for supporting collaboration between DevOps teams.

Portability and platform independence

The standardization feature supports portability. A container can be moved from cloud to cloud, providing it offers CaaS—not all clouds offer CaaS. Portability with CaaS eliminates concerns about vendor lock-in. Containers can be moved to another server without any complications. A DevOps team can relax, knowing their applications within a container will operate the same way regardless of the cloud being used.

Improved productivity

When using a cloud-based container platform, DevOp teams and developers spend less time working on the background infrastructure and setting up multiple runtime environments. This gives them more time to focus on creating and delivering unique products and features.

A shared infrastructure 

This is different from collaboration. This is about the benefits of using the cloud to complete projects. Generally speaking, there will be less work for the user in prepping the system and building the container, and the pay-as-you-go model typically used with CaaS reduces expenses.

Stability 

Clouds are considered to be fairly stable work environments, which includes CaaS. Clouds rarely go down, and when they do, they usually have excellent backup systems. As a rule, CaaS providers handle the underlying system issues and complexities. 

Scalability 

The design of containers makes horizontal scaling of distributed applications easy. Containers can also be duplicated quite easily, making more copies available for use in other locations. Additionally, A CaaS platform can be configured to run only the required number of containers, in turn, lowering costs. IBM Kubernetes is known for easy scaling.

CaaS Considerations

CaaS is used to upload, centrally manage, create, and operate container-based applications with a cloud platform. GUI (graphical user interface) or API calls are used for communications with the container in a cloud environment. The cloud provider typically offers one form or the other, and this might be a consideration for subtle apps work or personal preference. Another concern might be the orchestration tool, or orchestrator, offered by the CaaS provider.

Orchestration is important. Container applications being used in CaaS environments often consist of a cluster, with several containers spread out over various virtual and physical systems (referred to as multi-container applications). Operating these applications cannot be done manually, which is why orchestration tools, which organize interactions, are used. Alibaba Container Service is known for orchestrating container clusters easily and efficiently.

Cost is also an important consideration. When considering the cost, keep in mind that there is more involved than simple hourly expenses. There will be additional issues, usually in the form of a surprise, such as time to learn the system, the quality and efficiency of support when a problem arises, etc.

The following functions are important, as well, and definitely worth researching before entering into a contract with CaaS provider:

  • Load balancing
  • Container scaling
  • Distribution of containers across various hosts
  • Communication interface between containers
  • Organizing containers into units
  • Service discovery
  • Storage capacity allocation

The three most popular CaaS platforms are: Microsoft Azure Container Service, Google Container Engine, and Amazon EC2 Container Service. 

Use Cases

There are a variety of uses for cloud-based container platforms. They can be used to develop and deploy custom designed applications for a variety of needs. Some of the more popular uses are listed below:

Microservices

Containers can build and deploy microservices. For example, legacy systems can modify and rebuild their computer systems using microservices deployed by containers. Microservices can add some new features or alter some old ones.

The Internet of Things

Microservices and paired containers are important tools supporting the IoT (Internet of Things). Because containers make it easy to deliver software to computer systems, they are ideal for installing and updating applications that operate IoT devices. Sensor-specific libraries are often bundled along with the application inside a container and provide application portability for IoT devices.

Multi-tenancy

Containers support multi-tenant applications, and make it possible to alter a major application without completely rewriting it. Multi-tenancy means each customer shares a common software application along with a single database. Each tenant’s/customer’s data remains isolated and invisible to other tenants/customers. They make it possible for businesses to offer customers a variety of choices and services from a single server, while maintaining the customer’s privacy. Netflix provides a good example of multi-tenancy. When a customer signs in and selects a movie or TV show, they are working with multi-tenant applications.

Fast spin-up time 

Containers are ideal for sizable, discrete applications using many individual pieces of the services. The apps must start, run, and then terminate, all in a fairly short period of time. Using containers in this process is very efficient.

Server consolidation

Containers lack multiple OS memory footprints. Consequently, they can share unused memory, and bring about server consolidation. Server consolidation provides numerous benefits by lowering data center footprints, reducing costs, and maximizing the server’s capacity.

Development and Deployment: Additional Responsibilities

Container as a service supports both agile development and customized apps deployment in one platform. To maximize use of all the benefits a cloud-based container platform has to offer, teams must be responsible for the deployment, not just for the development. This adds to their responsibilities and may require additional training or additional team members who specialize in deployment. It is worth noting, however, that CaaS providers are simplifying the deployment process and making it much easier.