Container software is a key tool in the software developer’s toolkit. Containerized applications can run independently across multiple computing environments, making it easier for DevOps teams to deploy software updates and shift resources without fear of major disruptions.
However, it’s important that organizations choose the right container software for their unique needs and challenges. Though the top container software solutions are versatile, they each have advantages and drawbacks that make them better suited to some software buyers’ needs than others.
Top container software comparison
|Container Auto-recovery||Auto-scaling||Load-balancing||Integration with CI/CD||HIPAA or PCI-DSS compliant|
|Google Kubernetes Engine||❌||✅||✅||✅||✅|
Elastic Container Service (ECS) is a managed container orchestration service from Amazon Web Services (AWS).
This solution is best for customers who are already using other AWS products,
Amazon ECS is most often used by large computer software companies with thousands of employees, but it can work well for smaller companies as well.
AWS’s extensive documentation and support center received favorable reviews from multiple customers. ECS integrates easily with the CI/CD pipeline and other Amazon cloud services. Additionally, the scalability of ECS is rated highly by customers, and the interface is user-friendly.
However, some users said the AWS cloud formation designer template could be improved, and the application can be challenging to use for beginners. In addition, the load balancing service can be difficult to use. One customer also expressed frustration with the lack of integrations between ECS and third-party applications.
Docker is one of the best-known containerization solutions on the market. It is an open-source platform, allowing developers to use Windows, Mac, or Linux computers. This kind of platform agnosticism is ideal for organizations that need to run applications across multiple operating systems and environments.
The Docker platform helps ensure the software is easily deployed without having any system dependencies. Another positive comment referred to Docker as one of the best container runtime products on the market. The product is easily installed and integrates well with most cloud-based servers running various operating systems. Docker also can accept a variety of plugins to enhance its features.
On the downside, Docker does not have a GUI nor built-in support for Macs. The concept of containers can be challenging to understand, and making a lightweight container requires more than a basic understanding of container concepts.
Furthermore, when a container becomes inoperable, there is no available data recovery solution. Docker’s online documentation is not up to par, and another drawback is that there is no monitoring feature available.
Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) is a container orchestration tool that helps organizations migrate, deploy, manage, and containerized scale applications via Kubernetes.
GKE is PCI-DSS compliant, which makes it a suitable solution for credit card payment processes, including storing, processing, and transmitting cardholder data (CHD). GKE is HIPAA compliant too, making it a favorable platform for healthcare organizations.
In addition, GKE has a 99.5 percent service level agreement (SLA) standard that incentivizes GKE to meet its service level objective (SLO). If GKE does not meet its SLO and the customer meets its SLA, the customer will receive financial credit. This dedication to customer satisfaction may be a compelling advantage for customers who prioritize reliability from their container software provider.
Google Kubernetes Engine integrates well with several Google Cloud components. Setting up Google Cloud is simple, and the user interface is easy to use. Other complimented features are the native monitoring tool and the cluster auto-scaler for managing containers in a cluster.
Some pain points mentioned with GKE are inconsistency and lack of expected functionality with the console and shell. Specific help documentation can be challenging to find, and this documentation may be insufficient for new users. Customer support is mentioned as needing improvement.
Microsoft Azure offers multiple solutions for various container needs. It supports multiple programming languages, including deployment flexibility within the CI/CD process. In addition, this product is compatible with a range of open-source, client-side tools.
Azure’s documentation site is rated as excellent and is noted for providing great tutorials and examples. Azure is a fully managed, user-friendly container platform with point-and-click publishing. In addition, Azure DevOps features like automation deployment and managing scrums help guide development teams in the iterative and incremental delivery process.
One drawback customers noted was Azure’s customer support. Some users commented that the learning curve may be very steep for beginners, so it may not be a suitable solution for teams that don’t have a lot of technical expertise. Some customers also noted frustration with Azure’s pricing structure and hidden fees they hadn’t anticipated.
OpenVZ uses a Linux OS with container-based virtualization that can create multiple isolated containers. This product supports Docker containers and promotes DevOps automation with Kubernetes hosting to enhance containers’ development and deployment processes.
Virtuzzo uses a pay-per-use price structure. This flexibility may be especially beneficial for small and mid-sized companies that have lean budgets but need scalability.
With OpenVZ, provisioning containers is fast and easy, and some customers praised the platform’s unique features. Container virtualization is highly rated since it uses a shared kernel and therefore fewer computer resources.
One pain point customers mentioned is OpenVZ’s lack of image templates. Another drawback is that some containers are not as lightweight as Docker containers. The platform is not easy to configure relative to competitors—users must manually configure OpenVZ from scratch, whereas Docker is ready to go out of the box.
What are the benefits of using software containers?
Containers promote efficiency when operating in a computing environment because they require fewer computer resources than monolithic applications or virtual machines. The container uses the host operating system (OS) without the OS being a part of the container. This lessens the overhead for containers and makes them highly portable to other computing environments and smaller in file size.
Other benefits of using software containers include:
- More consistent operation: DevOps teams can rely on consistent container performance regardless of the host OS in use.
- Better application development: Containerization facilitates quicker development, test, and production cycles.
- Greater efficiency: Containers enhance the ability of applications to be quickly deployed, patched, or scaled as necessary.
How to choose the best container software
Container software must meet the unique needs and challenges a business faces in its software environment. It must be compatible with the right systems, programming languages, and operating systems the organization uses to operate. It must also fit the technical expertise of the development team and provide adequate technical support in the event something doesn’t work as expected.
Cost is another factor to consider. Some organizations might find more success with a per-user pricing structure, whereas others may prefer to pay based on the resources they use. If flexibility is the primary concern, customers should look for solutions with auto-scaling capabilities that can scale up or down as demand fluctuates.
Read next: Are Your Containers Secure?