Containers as a Service (CaaS)

What is CaaS (Containers as a Service)?

CaaS (containers as a service) is a pay-as-you-go cloud-based service offering organisations a way to manage their virtualised applications, clusters and containers to make deployments faster and easier.

How does CaaS work?

Essentially, a CaaS provider hosts a container orchestration engine that runs and maintains infrastructure between an organisation’s containers. Users can access this service via a container-based virtualisation, an API call or a web portal interface. Instead of a virtual machine (VM) or a bare metal host system, the service is offered via a container, which makes scaling easier and deployment faster.

When is CaaS a good idea?

CaaS is particularly well suited for micro application deployments because each container living in the CaaS has its own operating system and code base with network protocol relationships already defined. That makes deployments almost instantaneous. CaaS also has auto scaling and orchestration management built into it so tracking container performance is fundamentally outsourced, reducing IT staff time dedicated to each deployment.

Why is CaaS important?

CaaS is important because of what it allows software development teams and IT departments to do – and not do. Before CaaS became an option, software development included infrastructure management as part of the bring-to-market process. DevOps teams needed to pay attention to the underlying infrastructure that containers ran on. A dedicated resource was charged with overseeing and managing the cloud machines and network routing systems.

The advent of CaaS relieved these resources of those tasks and saved IT and DevOps time used to build and test container infrastructure before deploying containers. And CaaS also took away the burden on DevOps to simplify the complexity of cloud computing and its additional configuration.

In addition to what DevOps no longer needs to do now that CaaS is an option, the real power comes in what DevOps can do by using CaaS. Essentially, they can shift focus to the creative thinking needed to devise solutions for customer needs. This means they can offer new features more quickly in response to customer requests.

What are the benefits of CaaS?

CaaS provides a solution that benefits DevOps and IT teams in several ways:

  • Enterprise flexibility – With a CaaS vendor handling integration and deployment of all containerised applications, enterprises can distribute containers across multiple clouds, helping the organisation avoid being locked into one cloud vendor. They can select cloud providers based on different criteria, such as price or vendor strengths, for example.
  • Portability – CaaS brings portability, which means that workloads can be shifted easily between clouds, providers and environments. This allows companies greater control and efficiency.
  • Simplified maintenance – Using CaaS makes it easier to aggregate and centralise logging and monitoring for your containers for better visibility into their performance. And because CaaS providers handle updates and other maintenance tasks, IT departments are free to focus on other, more important tasks that bring revenue to the business.
  • Unified management – Shifting containerised applications to a CaaS platform allows DevOps to monitor performance and manage orchestration from a single vendor.
  • Scalability – CaaS platforms provide automatic scalability functions that allow for quick shifts in availability as demand spikes or stabilises.
  • Accelerated deployment speed – CaaS helps development teams streamline software development cycles. By abstracting the underlying infrastructure, DevOps can develop more lightweight and quicker deployments.
  • Reduced cost – Using CaaS allows an organisation to pay for only the services used, such as load balancing, scheduling and compute instances. CaaS can also help clients reduce infrastructure, software licensing and operating costs.

What is the difference between CaaS and other cloud services?

Now that operating on the cloud is the standard method for almost every organisation, as-a-service offerings have sprung up to help with efficiency, budget and other concerns. These services manage the software stack in cloud computing, providing the software infrastructure of a computer or server. The following are the top four as-a-service offerings:

Infrastructure as a Service

As its name suggests, IaaS provides companies with an infrastructure that consists of servers, storage, virtual machines and networks. Using IaaS allows companies to offload maintenance and allow in-house hardware to work on proprietary or more resource-intensive computing.

Platform as a Service

PaaS automates the back end of development, including managing individual software and hardware. This means DevOps can develop and deploy applications without needing to provision servers, storage and backup. A PaaS platform allows multiple users to run copy concurrently while it performs the testing, management, deployment and maintenance of application development.

Software as a Service

With SaaS, companies can acquire software licences through a provider that delivers business applications on a subscription basis. The provider supplies the infrastructure and platform to run the applications and handles all updates and maintenance.

Why are containers important?

As more organisations have implemented hybrid and multi-cloud environments, companies have discovered the advantages of using containers instead of virtual machines. Containers have saved organisations time and money, and given DevOps teams a way to develop, test and produce applications in reliable, consistent environments no matter the machines used.

And containers offer users the ability to deploy new applications more rapidly, which allows organisations to build applications that customers need swiftly. That can make the difference when customers are choosing between businesses. Containers are also:

  • OS agnostic – With an application and all its necessary files bundled into one unit – minus an operating system – the container can run on different operating systems, hardware, networks, storage systems and security policies. This means that any environment is compatible, so developers don’t need to re-write applications for different servers.
  • Lightweight – Containers are very small and use minimal computing resources, making application deployment lightning fast.
  • Efficient – With individual containers holding single components of complex applications, developers can more easily deploy them in clusters.
  • Portable – As one unit, a container can move easily from one environment to another, providing DevOps with more control over workloads.
  • Isolated – Because containers run independently, any problem that occurs with one container can be isolated from other running containers.

How are Kubernetes and CaaS different?

Fundamentally, Kubernetes – otherwise known as K8s – and CaaS are related in that they both manage containers in some way, K8s as a container platform and CaaS as a subscription-based service to administer containers. But the two are different because one is an infrastructure solution and the other is a management solution. Both are critical to running production workloads at scale.

K8s provides the assets needed to build developer platforms, with user choice and flexibility built into its DNA. It can support a wide variety of workloads, unlike traditional PaaS systems, and can self-heal or restart containers that fail, replacing and killing containers that don’t respond as necessary.

As a platform operating on a container level, K8s provides some features common to PaaS but that aren’t built into K8s. Instead, it offers deployment, scaling and load balancing, and allows integration of logging, monitoring and alerting solutions as optional plug-ins.

CaaS providers often use a K8s platform to manage containers. With K8s, CaaS providers balance loads, automatically mount storage systems, pack bins and describe the desired state for deployed applications.

How is CaaS being used?

Many organisations are turning to CaaS for increased efficiency, saving DevOps time and making it easy to deploy microservices. The following are good examples of this.

At Fujitsu, a major information and technology company in Japan, the Integrated Systems Business offers customers cutting-edge container technology. They’ve turned to a CaaS provider so they can adopt a modern container infrastructure solution to help them keep costs low while they’re building their own set of container tools. In addition, they’re using CaaS so they can run and update container-based applications on their own hardware with minimum manual intervention.

Another technology company, MapR Technologies, provides analytics to help businesses make quick decisions with access to the underlying data built into internal applications. Now acquired by HPE, MapR implemented a CaaS solution so they could manage applications that operationalise data-driven insights in real time. Having the latest insights into customer data ready to serve up quickly is a huge bonus for MapR’s offerings.

A supply chain planning software provider, StockIQ uses CaaS to provide customers with rapid deployments of container farms on bare metal and improved performance from running containers directly on bare metal.

GM Financial operates in a highly regulated industry and uses a multi-tenant hybrid cloud environment for a wide range of machine learningdeep learning and natural language processing applications. Many tasks, such as credit risk analysis, were containerised and managed by CaaS for quick automated deployment for distributed machine learning and deep learning environments.

How does HPE provide CaaS?

With our extensive portfolio of breakthrough solutions and services, HPE is well positioned to help customers ignite innovation, optimise performance and harness the full power of their information. In fact, several services recently won technology innovator awards for addressing the customer need to modernise all of their applications and workloads.

 HPE Ezmeral Runtime earned recognition from CRN as the top innovation in container technology in 2020. It provides the flexibility to deploy and manage containerised applications at scale on any infrastructure: enterprise data centres, colocation facilities, multiple public clouds and at the edge. Customers can run cloud-native or non-cloud-native applications in containers without costly refactoring, manage multiple Kubernetes clusters with a unified control plane and leverage a high-performance distributed file system for persistent data and stateful applications through HPE’s proven innovations such as HPE Ezmeral Data Fabric and the KubeDirector open-source project.  HPE Ezmeral Runtime is also delivered as a cloud service through HPE GreenLake.

HPE GreenLake delivers the industry’s first enterprise-grade, scalable container platform with 100%-open-source Kubernetes for cloud-native and non-cloud-native applications. This container platform helps rapidly deploy innovations in AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G. With HPE GreenLake, you can simplify IT with pre-integrated, converged infrastructure that’s managed for you and a unified control plane for all of your applications.