Google is the latest cloud service provider to rally behind containers, an emerging type of virtualization technology that adherents claim can streamline the process of running workloads in the cloud.
Google is now offering a container management service, called the Google Container Engine, for production workloads. This sets the stage for businesses to run their most important applications within containers on the Google Cloud Platform.
A growing number of organizations use containers as a way to build applications that can be easily scaled, duplicated and upgraded. The new service provides a way to manage large numbers of containers, eliminating a lot of the low-level work of orchestrating operations involving many containers.
Google first launched the container engine in November 2014, as a preview release. With this commercial release, Google guarantees that the service is ready for production workloads, promising a 99.95 percent uptime.
Pricing has also been set. Use is free for up to 6 nodes. Managing more than 6 nodes costs $0.015 per hour per cluster.
Google itself has been using containers to run its own Internet services, such as search and e-mail.
Using containers, organizations can build their applications in a modular fashion, with each component holding a piece of the application -- a practice known as a micro-services architecture. When the application needs to be updated, a new container can be easily swapped in, minimizing the impact in operations.
Containers also set the stage for the DevOps style of software development, in which developers quickly iterate while creating a software program, by packaging it in containers so individual components can be easily and frequently tested.
With the service, users can deploy a complex application, involving multiple containers, as a single operation. The Google Container Engine also logs operations and ensures each of the containers is running properly, as well as provides an easy way to resize a cluster by adding additional processing or memory.
Startup company Porch, which provides a listing service to find home improvement professionals, found that using a container-based approach on Google requires only about 40 percent of the resources that would be required using other cloud-based services, according to a blog post announcing the release.
The container-based architecture also allows organizations to move their applications between in-house deployments and cloud services, or between two cloud services. Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat, and VMware all offer container-management technologies with their services and enterprise software stacks.
The Google Container Engine is based on Kubernetes, a container management software developed by Google and released as open source.