A container by any other name

Different container technologies all use similar architectures but address different market needs.

There is a lot of container talk in the industry today. Docker has clearly been leading the way and providing a much needed simplified approach for utilization of Linux based services and applications.

There are many really good reasons container adoption is moving at such a tremendous pace compared to hypervisor based solutions; to name a few, they have shown themselves to be significantly faster, cheaper, less complicated, and more efficient.

The underlying technology for containers is not a new concept, in fact it is at least as old as the hypervisor based technology which is prevalent today.

Container technology is defined as Operating System Level Virtualization. In other words it is a virtualization method where the kernel of an operating system allows for multiple isolated user space instances, instead of just one.

Docker component diagram

Docker and Linux component diagram

Because of the age and evolution of this technology, which evolved from a Unix simple command known as chroot, such instances (often called containers, virtualization engines (VE), virtual private servers (VPS), or jails), may look and feel like a real server from the point of view of its owners and users.

In the story of Romeo and Juliet, because of the rivalry between families and the perceived obstacles which occur because of Romeo’s last name, Juliet says the following to her love:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Despite the naming conventions, container technology’s day has come!  The success of Docker is obvious because it solves such an important problem in the industry, which is to greatly simplify the technology it relies on for containerization; one which stems from a technology that has been used by administrators for many years. This allows for the reduction in technical skills required for deployment and lowers the complexity of working with containers to the point where DevOps can easily take advantage of it.

For Linux based applications, there really are no significant rivals to Docker despite all the noise around announcements about others entering the marketplace to compete against them. Docker’s containerization based approach is even able to run on Microsoft Windows Server environments, which to date had to rely on complete Linux operating system virtualization for each application. This however leaves a tremendous gap in the market for containers that can run Windows based applications, let alone Windows based desktop applications and technologies. With the recent announcement of Nano, we are beginning to see comparable technologies to the chroot of old in the Windows ecosystem, and because we have so much history to build on in the Unix/Linux evolution, I suspect it will evolve very quickly.

You do not have to wait for Microsoft to answer the call for containerization of native Windows applications!

Our Glassware technology delivers simple, efficient containerization of Windows applications which has traditionally only been available through hypervisor based virtualization solutions. When it comes to Windows based applications, it is important to understand that they are not headless, which means they all have a User Interface (UI).  Because of this, whether hypervisor based or container based (today through our Glassware technology), the User Interface must be streamed. Glassware makes this simple and efficient in much the same way as Docker made the Linux container technology so easy, even with the additional overhead of delivering a User Interface.

Glassware component stack

Glassware component stack

I think it worth mentioning, that in much the same way as Microsoft has evolved its hypervisor solution to support Docker, Glassware has a very efficient method of “containerizing” Linux applications within its Windows based containers. With our Microvisor technology, adding pretty much any operating system becomes very simple and provides for bare metal performance capabilities, something only removing the hypervisor from the solution could accomplish. This makes it the most efficient approach to providing shared computing, including traditional virtualization approaches for Windows based applications.

A container by any other name, would smell as sweet. In the case of Glassware’s container technology, and its supporting technologies, it is even sweeter.


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