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OPLIN 4cast #459: Software containers

Posted in 4cast

shipping containersIf your library uses any Software as a Service (SaaS), which is increasingly common for Integrated Library Systems (ILS) and subscriptions management, then it’s quite likely that you have been using a software container and didn’t know it. Also known as operating-system-level virtualization, containers allow SaaS and other hosted services vendors to split a virtual server between a large number of separate users and keep them isolated from one another. Think of a container ship, where one vessel carries a large number of separate containers that will be moved to trucks and distributed to many different points. (It’s no coincidence that the most popular software for managing containers is called “Docker.”) Containers are excellent places to test new or upgraded software, so they occasionally are used locally as well as in the cloud.

  • Software containers: Used more frequently than most realize (NetworkWorld | Scott Hogg)  “As more VMs [virtual machines] were getting deployed, organizations had each application run on its own virtual server and each application essentially had its own dedicated resources (CPU, memory, I/O, network configuration). However, that server virtualization model requires a separate OS (and licensing) for each application. If all businesses care about is the applications, then why not try to get the applications to each run in their own computing instance? Then came along the idea of using a software container to isolate the application.”
  • Containers everywhere! Getting started with Docker (The Register | Kat McIvor)  “Shipping containers have a defined size. No matter what they contain the cranes used to move shipping containers about and the boats that load them know how to stack them. A shipping container is a standardised unit. Imagine if software was the same. Rather than needing to know how to setup a server to the exact specifications given by a program, you are given a container. The container engine knows how to move that container about and how to run it, no matter what is inside.”
  • Is there a Docker in the house? (Brinxmat’s blog | Rurik Greenall)  “As Oslo Public Library wants 100% test coverage, we aim for deploying tested artifacts; providing test coverage for complete software packages like the Koha integrated library system is basically impossible as we’re not just talking about unit tests for the software components, but also the configured system as installed. The route we’ve chosen is to use Docker to encapsulate the packages we’re using and test the resulting artifacts; in this way, we can ensure that every deployed artifact is tested and can be demonstrated to function as expected before it is deployed in production.”
  • Why Docker is the hottest technology on the block (Network Computing)  “It’s important to keep in mind that Docker still is relatively new, having been released in March 2013. So it is still in early days of adoption. As a result, your organization will most likely require IT professionals with significant experience in order to implement the technology successfully. And, as with most technology, there may be security risks associated with using Docker due to the flexibility it offers.”

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