Containers have become the darling of enterprise businesses. The reason for that is they’re a portable, scalable, cost-effective, and reliable solution for application and service deployment. Your development team can create an application or service, deploy it to a cluster (such as one managed by Kubernetes or Docker Swarm) and scale it up or down as needed, and even automate that process.
Containers also make it incredibly easy to deploy complex stacks and applications with a single command. So, instead of having to build those applications traditionally, they are more easily deployed from either the command line or from a GUI manager (such as Portainer) quickly and effortlessly.
For those businesses who’ve yet to dive into containers, there’s a fairly significant learning curve, especially when dealing with Kubernetes. In fact, the ramp-up to successful container deployment and management can be significant.
With that in mind, what tools can you offer your developers to help them break into containers? Let’s take a look at some of the things that would go a long way to helping them get up to speed.
The very first thing you should do is create a test environment to allow those developers to work. This should probably be something on your LAN (instead of using a third-party cloud host), so you don’t wind up having to pay for those developers to learn as they go. Part of the reason for this is that poorly configured containers can certainly run up the bill for your cloud host. Because of that, set up either a single machine or a cluster of machines on an isolated network within your LAN. This will be a safe environment for your developers to build and break things as they learn the ins and outs of container development.
Do not start your developers off with Kubernetes, as that technology is exponentially more difficult than the likes of Docker. To get up to speed with containers, there is no easier route than using Docker. You can install Docker for free on a server or desktop within your company and your developers will find it a much easier path to understanding and learning how to develop and deploy containers. If you find Docker not available for installation on your operating system of choice, there’s also Podman, which is a drop-in replacement for Docker that also still enjoys integration with Kubernetes.
Docker Desktop is a commercial solution for managing containers and comes in the form of a very user-friendly GUI. One of the best benefits of using Docker Desktop (besides easy management tools) is that installing it on the likes of macOS also installs a full Docker and Kubernetes environment. That means you don’t have to go through the trouble of also deploying the more challenging Kubernetes on multiple systems, just so your developers can get up to speed with the technology.
Another outstanding GUI tool, Portainer is installed on a server, so all of your developers can access it from a web browser. This tool also offers collaboration and team features that make it better suited for a larger, collaborative environment. Portainer also offers a few more features than Docker Desktop, plus it’s free to use for any size business.
One tool you should definitely make available to those learning how to work with containers is a local image repository. Most often new container developers will start by pulling down random images from DockerHub. The problem with that it can be easy to mistakenly download an image that contains malicious code. You certainly don’t want your developers to launch their education in such a way. Although setting up a local repository does add extra work into the mix, it’ll be a great way for your developers to learn some crucial aspects of container development and the importance of container security.
With a quick Google search, you’ll find there are tons of training courses available that are centered on container development. Before your developers dive into the world of containerization, it’s probably a good idea that they begin with an introductory course that will help them better grasp the fundamentals of containers but also ensure they aren’t launching this new branch of their career on the wrong foot. A good container training course can be invaluable to a developer’s early education. This is one investment your company can make that will definitely pay off in the end.
Another tool your developers will need is the Linux operating system. Most often those containers will be deployed from a virtual Linux machine hosted on a third-party cloud service. If your developers don’t know the ins and outs of Linux, they’ll have a harder time getting up to speed with the technology. Give those developers a Linux testing environment so they can not only learn how to use containers but can also learn how to navigate the operating system they will use to develop and deploy those containers from.
Learning the ins and outs of container technology can be a daunting task. With a bit of pre-planning and the right tools, your developers will have a much easier time and can get up to speed considerably faster. On top of that, you’ll want those developers capable of not only developing the containers but managing the environment they are deployed within.
Gather all of these tools and resources together before your developers embark on this new journey to ensure their ability to succeed is far greater than it would be otherwise. In the end, however, you’ll also need to employ a good amount of patience. Container technology isn’t the easiest to learn (especially for those who’ve never dealt with anything remotely adjacent), so bringing patience to the table will also go a long way to help with that success.