What is containerization and why does your e-commerce business need it?
By 2023, Gartner predicts that 70% of all organizations around the globe will be running three or more containerized applications. A significant number of those businesses will be e-commerce companies looking to future-proof their operations in a landscape that’s evolving at breakneck speeds. Businesses that master containerization will be rewarded with lower operating costs, tighter security, easier maintenance and, crucially, much greater agility in the market.
If the past eighteen months or so have taught us anything, it’s that remaining agile is absolutely critical to success in modern retail. A lot of brick and mortar stores were forced to remain closed for much of 2020, while e-commerce skyrocketed by 44% in the previous year. Businesses that we're able to put their new ideas into motion quickly were best placed to not only weather the storm but ride the wave and enjoy even greater success.
This is how containerization empowers business. But what is it and how does it work? Is it something your e-commerce business should be considering? If you’re already considering it, are you confident you’re moving in the right direction?
What exactly is containerization?
In the 1940s, physical cargo containers revolutionized shipping. All of a sudden, deploying and transferring goods was quicker, safer and more secure than it had ever been before. Digital containers work in much the same way, making the deployment of applications used by your business fast, effective and seamless. They can be thought of as a kind of ‘digital packaging’ that comes complete with everything a particular application or ‘service’ needs to run. These digital packages can then be deployed wherever and whenever they’re needed, reducing your operating costs and allowing you to orchestrate your digital services and functions much more efficiently.
That’s the simple definition. To put things a little more technically, a digital container is a virtual runtime environment that is designed to host a specific application, providing all of the resources it needs to run in its own self-sufficient bubble. This gives applications and services a kind of ‘plug and play’ flexibility, allowing your business to deploy them when needed and divert computing resources accordingly. While legacy systems are quite static in how they operate, container architecture is incredibly dynamic and versatile. That’s what containers are in a nutshell, but why should your e-commerce business care about them?
How e-commerce businesses benefit from containerization
Have you ever wondered how Amazon is able to roll out constant updates on its platform without disrupting the end-user experience? From placing new buttons and search fields to adding new products and checkout functions, Amazon updates its online storefront roughly once every 11 seconds. That simply wouldn’t be possible without containerization.
Container technology allows businesses to take a modular approach to application or service deployment. Because each service is contained in its own virtual runtime environment, it can be updated or removed without impacting everything else in the digital chain. Likewise, new features can be added seamlessly. Most e-commerce operations will be made up of tens, hundreds or even thousands of containers, all working in harmony thanks to the intelligent application of APIs. Those containers can also be easily duplicated, making the technology incredibly scalable and ripe for automation, particularly when combined with an orchestration tool like Kubernetes or Docker.
Container orchestration effectively automates the deployment, management, scaling and networking of containers. Using orchestration, your business will be able to deploy the same application across a variety of different environments without needing to redesign it or create a new container. Imagine how easy it would be to scale dynamically and cost-effectively using a suite of containerized microservices as opposed to one, monolithic legacy system.
Using containers in this way would enable your e-commerce businesses to simply scale up or scale down depending on your customers’ needs. If a global pandemic, for instance, caused a surge in online shopping, your digital presence would be ready to cope with that demand almost instantly, using precisely the resources it needed during those periods of high demand and no more. In this sense, your business is only paying for what it really needs when it comes to computing and energy costs.
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