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What is Docker? Or: Why choose Docker?

150 150 Frank

Hey everyone,

today it´s about one of the virtualisation solutions out there: Docker.
I want to help you understand quickly how it works.

What is Docker?
As mentioned Docker is a software virtualisation solution. There are others out
there which are different. The important point is that it uses container virtualisation.
That means with Docker you don´t have to install a whole virtual machine if you want to
e.g. setup a webserver. You package the webserver into a container and docker reuses the
operating system it runs on. This means a difference in size, both storage and main memory.

In short it looks like this:
Host OS -> Docker -> Docker Container
-> Docker Container
-> Docker Container
.
.
.

When to use it?
I personally use Docker for most of my projects of custom developed online hosted software.
You probably heard of the MEAN (Mongo, Express, Angular, Nodejs) Stack. To host those Docker
is often used.

Whats the benefit?
When you create software whose fundamentals work similarly (e.g. the same Nodejs Framework)
you write the Recipe to package the Software (Dockerfile) once and can copy it over with
little changes.

Docker container are stateless. You can rest assured that you can start a software from the same
configuration every time. You change the configuration of the data storage but else it works everywhere the same.
No more “but it works on my computer”.

Easy to combine into Systems (Stacks). You take multiple containers with different software and can combine them
to achieve your goal. You can reuse the same containers, just point the configuration to e.g. another Database and it works.

Works like a charm with the concept of microservices. With Docker you can set up microservices easier. I have e.g. one container
to handle a generic JobSystem for distributed workflows. I need it in a new stack? No problem, point to it and it basically is available.
The new System creates to much load? Start another instance of that container to do load balancing.

Online Hosting is available and affordable. It is not as cheap as a $3.95/month web hosting but it doesn´t need to cost $1000/month either.
The exact cost will of course depend on the size of your project.

What are the negatives?
Docker does virtualisation and virtualisation itself takes up more resources.

Docker has layers of containers. If you have to many layers the logic slows down.

Sometimes it takes more time to find the correct base image layer and install software in the correct way.

Conclusion
Like everything Docker has it´s pros and cons. Every user has to weigh them and draw his/her own conclusion.
Personally I use a microservice approach. And Docker is a great help for that after you figured a few things out.
I love that I can package my software into a stateless container, configure it externally with connections to data and systems and know that it works the same on my laptop as well as my server.
If it doesn´t work on the server then I know 99.9% of the time that it is a configuration problem. That alone already saves a headache or two ;).
But I am not at the point of an enterprise that uses 1000s of container yet. That might be a bigger challenge with Docker. But the knowledge from Docker will make a transition even then easier.

I hope I was able to give you a quick overview of Docker as a base for following posts and your own decision whether to use it or not.

Yours Sincerely,
Frank

Sources:
(1) Docker Curriculum.com
(2) Docker from the Beginning I

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