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What is Docker Container? Function, Components, Benefits & Evolution

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24th Jun, 2023
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What is Docker Container? Function, Components, Benefits & Evolution

Docker‘ is a Platform set as a Service (PaaS) product intended to deliver software in the form of packages, which are termed as containers. It uses OS-level virtualization standards, wherein the kernel allows multiple instances of isolated user-space such as containers, partitions, zones, virtual kernels, etc.

These behave as real computers simulating the way programs are run in them. On a regular operating system, we see the resources the computer program is running. In containers, we can only see the contents and the devices allocated to the container when the programs are run in it.

For several developers in the industry today, Docker is the accepted standard for developing and sharing containerized apps, across the desktop and the cloud. Containers are a standardized unit of software. Developers use it to isolate an app from its environment. Due to their lightweight characteristics, several docker containers (typically above eight containers per host) can be run on a single server or VM, simultaneously.

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Docker is intended for developers to build lightweight and portable software containers. The container packages facilitate simplified application development, deployment, and testing. They initially made Docker for Linux OS. However, it now runs on a range of OSs: Linux, Windows, Datacenter, Cloud, Serverless, etc.

Evolution

Docker, an open-source project, was launched in 2013. Docker Inc. developed it further to adopt cloud-native, which resulted in a trend towards containerization and microservices in the software domain. Docker released its ‘enterprise edition’ in 2017.

Modern software development faces the challenge of managing the applications on a common host or cluster. There is a need to separate the applications from one another to avoid interference and interoperability with regard to operation or maintenance. The association of the packages, libraries, binaries, and other software components required for an application to run is considered crucial for managing application development.

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The conventional approach to address this problem has been the use of virtual machines (VMs). Virtual machines used to emulate a computer system.

Top Read: Docker Project Ideas & Topics

Benefits

Those VMs retain applications on the same hardware, however separating them virtually. They aim to control conflicts arising between software components and minimize hardware resources. However, over a period of time, VMs have turned bulky, in terms of memory size as they require an indigenous OS.

As for the ever-increasing memory requirements, it has become challenging to maintain and upgrade the same as implementations may involve specialized hardware, software, or a combination of the two.

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The following are some of the benefits of Docker Containers:

  • Environment standardization – production environment can be shared collaboratively to develop, test, or maintain.
  • Faster and consistent configuration – The image configuration eases unprivileged users to run quickly.
  • Faster adoption of DevOps – Supports in the key automation phases: Deploy, Operate and Optimize.
  • Safe disaster recovery – The reduced drag in the DR with minimal recovery time.

Must Read: Docker Salary in India

Operation

Every container is run by a single operating system kernel, and therefore it uses fewer resources than virtual machines. Containers, densely packed on the same hardware, share the operating system’s underlying kernel with several applications, and yet isolate the execution environments from one another. Containers use far fewer resources than VMs and are fast.

Now, let’s see the operation in the context of Linux. A Docker packages an application and its dependencies in a virtual container and enables it to run on any Linux server in various configurations such as local premises, in a public or private cloud. Docker uses the shared resource of the kernel and saves on the VM overheads.

Containers are isolated from each other. They also bundle specific sets of software, libraries, and configuration files. They can communicate with one another using channels that are well-defined. Therefore, a Docker container is viewed as an open-source software development platform for creating containers and container-based applications.

It’s a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform for developers to create, run, and manipulate applications without bothering about the complex infrastructure requirements for developing and launching an app.

The Docker ‘run’ command is used to create and start a container on the local docker host. On the other hand, the Docker ‘service’ refers to one or more containers with the same configuration running under the Docker’s cloud mode. It is similar to a Docker run wherein a user spins up a container, forming a transposition.

Function

As containers decouple applications from the OS, users get a clean and minimal OS to help run everything else in more than one isolated container. With the operating system abstracted from containers, it becomes possible to move a container across any server that supports the container runtime environment.

Components

  • Docker engine: It is a software that hosts the containers. It is the core of Docker and the underlying client-server engine responsible for creating and running the containers.
  • Dockerfile: A Docker container starts with a Dockerfile. It is a text file written in a simplified syntax of the instructions used to build a Docker image (instance). Every docker container starts with a designated Dockerfile.
  • Docker image: After the Dockerfile is written, Docker build is used to create a static image as specified by Dockerfile instructions. A Docker image is an example of a portable file, essentially a snapshot of a container. It contains a set of specifications that is run by the container for software components. The container images become containers at runtime in Docker containers, and images become containers when they run on Docker Engine.
  • Docker run: The ‘run’ command is used to launch a container. Every container is a specific case of an image. Containers are instantaneous by nature, as they run on the fly and are capable of being stopped and restarted. You can run more than one container instance of an image simultaneously.
  • Docker registry: It is a repository for Docker images. This is a place where registered clients can share images. You can download (called ‘pull’) images for use in the development or upload (‘push’) existing images. It also allows the creation of notifications based on the given events. A registry can be public or private in type. Docker Hub and Docker Cloud are examples of main public registries. Docker Hub is the default registry in which Docker looks up images.
  • Docker hub: It is a SaaS repository used to share and manage containers. It shares official Docker images that have their source in open-source projects, software vendors, and unofficial images posted by users in the public domain. Once you understand what is docker hub, you can use it for identifying and sharing container images with ease.

Steps to Use Docker Container

Now that you are aware of what is Docker container, you should acquire knowledge about how to leverage it. The procedure for using a Docker container are as follows:

Step 1: Shift the Container Infrastructure to the Cloud

After deploying your application, you should check whether it gets deployed to your preferred cloud provider. If so, you can continue running the application on the platform of your chosen cloud provider. 

Step 2: Monitor the Environment

You can leverage an existing provider like IBM DataSmart, Splunk, or Azure Information Protection. You can use different API requests for monitoring the environment. Apart from that, the API requests will help you update or delete systems as well as send a report. 

Step 3: Configuring the System

After deploying the application, you will need a few integral components to run the system. The Dockerfile helps configure the production environment. A Dockerfile acts as a bash script for creating the system. This script offers configuration for different components and helps deploy the application. 

Step 4: Adding Vault

If you know what is Docker in DevOps, you should learn about the importance of the Vault. The Vault plays a crucial role in safeguarding and securing the source code. It also helps in providing access to the source code. 

The Vault contains various credentials and security keys necessary for operating a wide range of environments. With the help of Vault, you will be able to configure a particular group or user to access the different databases and repositories of the source code. 

If you want to add Vault to a project, you will have to edit its source code. After that, you must add the source files in an accurate place. These files are usually available in the /vault directory. You should also provide details about the dependencies of Vault. 

Step 5: Running the Application

In this step, you will have to run the Dockerfile from the root directory. It will help run the application smoothly. The command for running the application is:

$ docker-compose run app

This command is useful for running the Dockerfile from the /vault directory. 

Step 6: Starting Machine 

This step involved starting the application successfully. Once you start it, you will receive the primary API, which is quite simple. 

Step 7: Deploying to Machine

If you desire to deploy the application to the machine, you will have to use this command:

$ docker-compose up -d

Step 8: Restarting the Machine

You will have to restart the instance using this command:

$ docker-compose down -d

After successfully running this command, you will notice your instance running. 

Step 9: Viewing State

After the application starts running, you will have to run the following command:

$ docker-compose ps

It will help you understand the machine states of the application. 

Step 10: Inspecting Source Code

You can inspect the content of the source code using the following command:

$ docker-compose exec /vault/code

Conclusion

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Containers share operating systems, whereas VMs are designed to emulate virtual hardware. The Docker containers are apt for situations in which multiple applications need to be run over a single operating-system kernel.

You need VMs if you have applications or servers that have to be run on various operating system flavors. During the fast technological advancements of today’s scenarios, Docker, a lightweight resource, is a preferred alternative to virtual machines.

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Profile

Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are the advantages of using OpenShift?

OpenShift provides a public, private, or hybrid cloud environment for developers and enterprises to develop, deploy, and manage applications. It is a DevOps platform as a service that allows developers to create, test, and deploy applications quickly while maximizing resource efficiency. It also provides IT businesses with a platform for automating the deployment of apps and services. OpenShift can also be used to manage your own apps and services. Developers can also choose from a wide range of programming languages, frameworks, and tools. Finally, OpenShift provides a range of price choices, including a free tier with limited resources.

2What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is a platform for automating containerized application deployment, scaling, and management. It organizes containers into logical pods and includes techniques for replica sets and service discovery. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration system created by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others. Google, Azure, AWS, and others all offer it as a cloud service. It's also accessible as a software package that may be installed on-premises or in the cloud, both public and private. It provides APIs for container deployment, scaling, and management and allows you to manage containers in a clustered environment. It also has a user interface for managing containers. Kubernetes, likewise, includes a scheduler for distributing resources to containers and a health-checker for monitoring the system's containers. Finally, Kubernetes includes support for autoscaling, which can automatically add or remove containers from the system based on load or other criteria.

3What is the importance of networking?

Professionals benefit from networking since it helps them to connect with other professionals and prospects. It also allows professionals to share information and learn from one another. It can also assist professionals in locating new employment prospects. Similarly, networking can assist entrepreneurs in connecting with other business owners and locating investors for their ventures. Finally, networking can assist students in making connections with people in their field of interest as well as finding internship and career possibilities.

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