Image © Jakarin Niamkiang,

Image © Jakarin Niamkiang,

Container Angst


Article from ADMIN 72/2022
Just because it's new, doesn't mean it's better. How I learned to stop worrying and love the old containers.

The IT world went container crazy a few years ago when Docker first hit the scene. Although I'm into virtualization of all types, I totally missed out on Docker-mania. I never really "got" what all the hype was about when containers had been around for about 40 years. There was never any excitement around them until the whole Docker craze struck the hearts and minds of IT folk. I like containers. They're easy to set up and easy to manage, and there are lots of advantages of a lightweight but robust virtualization solution. I'd been working with containers for years before Docker came along and spoiled it for everyone. Well, I spoiled it for everyone who knew that containers weren't new or spectacular in any way. It didn't matter how long containers had been around, these newfangled, fancier containers were somehow newer and more exciting and something we'd never seen or heard of.

To the whole ridiculous whimsical container sickness, I say, "Bah. Humbug!" I love containers. Containers aren't the problem. It's the madness surrounding them that irritates me. Other container technologies are just as exciting as Docker containers. Podman, for example, is a great container technology from Red Hat. Both technologies have their advantages and disadvantages.

I'm a fan of the old-school chroot jails, Solaris zones, and even the newer system container implementation, system-nspawn. I like the simplicity of these "standard" container technologies. Attempting to create a cross-platform, write-once-play-anywhere technology sounds great, but the problem for me is that I'm required to install so much supporting software that it takes away the lightweight nature of the original idea. I don't necessarily think that every technology must be cross-platform capable. Some things should be operating system-specific or at least operating system-optimized. For example, you can run an Apache web server, PHP, and MySQL on Windows (WAMP), but when Linux is free, freely available, and LAMP (Linux, etc.) stacks come prepackaged – even as container and virtual machine (VM) images, I'm not sure why one would go to the trouble to create a WAMP stack (although I've done it).

I think a mixture of containers and full-featured VMs is the best solution. The Proxmox project offers this on a single host system, which is a blending of the OpenVZ container technology and KVM/Qemu, as I recall. I'm a huge fan of the OpenVZ container implementation. I can have a fully ready-to-run container host system operable in about an hour that has the capability of hosting hundreds of container virtual machines.

Don't get me wrong. I love new technology. More than once, I've shunned currently available technology for something much improved. And it only makes sense that not every new solution will appeal to everyone. I like a new solution that is more efficient, cost-effective, or labor-saving, or so clever that I can't say anything bad about it. If a newfangled whatever isn't in some way an improvement, then I'll take a hard pass on it. I don't need to change what I've done for the past five years just because there's a new thing available. Show me how it's better, and I'll buy in; otherwise, keep moving. This is how I feel about certain container solutions mentioned above. They don't seem to improve on previous technology enough to go to the trouble of learning or using them. If you use Docker or Podman, live long and prosper. You might have the right temperament for them, but I don't. My motto is that "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should." I can create concrete furniture, but I don't see the point of doing it, so I refrain.

I'm rarely an early adopter of the latest and greatest technology, not because I'm afraid of the technology but because of its vulnerabilities and security holes. Avoiding unnecessary risk is my jam, and I'm sticking to it for better or worse. Now, where are my hammer, chisel, and stone tablets? Too bad there's not a "Find my ancient tools" app available somewhere. Now that's something I could use. Perhaps a "pinch zoom" on common household items with tiny writing is also too tall an order. People would rather invent things we don't need than those we do.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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