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Azure Container Instances: A Simple Explanation


Azure Container Instances make it easier to manage container environments. But what exactly are Azure Container Instances, and how do they differ from other container technologies like Kubernetes and Docker?

This blog answers these questions and seeks to explain Azure Container Instances, which will ultimately help you prepare a container and virtualization strategy.

Some Quick Azure Container-Related Definitions

Container technology introduces a variety of new terminology, all of which may be confusing to those new to the architecture. In an attempt to clarify these keywords, we’ve compiled some quick and easy-to-understand definitions for you to review. Microsoft and other publishers provide a wealth of technical and descriptive documentation on each of these topics, so for more depth, please research each term separately.

  • Containers: Virtualization technology that enables you to run applications and dependent resources in an isolated environment
  • Microsoft Azure: Microsoft’s public cloud service for building, testing, deploying and managing applications
  • Azure Container Instances: An Azure service that allows for on-demand computing and rapid container deployment
  • Orchestration: The process of organizing multiple containers (Note: Azure Container Instances are not an orchestration service, please review Azure Kubernetes Services for more information)

If Azure Container Instances Aren't an Orchestration Service, Then What are They?

Good question, one that we often receive. According to Azure Corporate VP Corey Sanders, “Azure Container Instances are not an orchestrator and are not intended to replace orchestrators, they will fuel orchestrators and other services as a container building block.” Opposed to an orchestrator, Corey defines an Azure Container Instance as “simply code, in a container, running in the cloud.” By definition, an Azure Container Instance is simply a fast and easy way to build a containerized application, opposed to an orchestrator, which manages and automates multiple containers at scale.

Read '5nine Cloud Security for Microsoft Azure Solution Brief' to find out more about Azure container orchestration. 

The Benefits of Azure Container Instances

Azure Container Instances make it fast and easy to deploy containers, especially for those developers just getting started with container technology. There are plenty of benefits, but here are some of our favorites:

  • There’s no virtual machine infrastructure to manage
  • It doesn’t require complex orchestration to get started
  • The service provides flexible sizing, meaning you define how much memory your application requires
  • It’s fast, easy and well-documented
  • It’s great for developers new to container technology

Why Use Azure Containers In the First Place?

Using containers in enterprise IT infrastructures can simplify application development processes, lower resource usage and improve agility. Because of their small, light-weight architecture and minimal footprint, containers are highly agile and resource-efficient. Containerization isn’t as complex as traditional virtualization, so it’s a lot easier for DevOps to build, test and deploy applications. However, containers and container technology still have challenges and lack adoption, especially in the enterprise.

Azure Container Challenges

Automating and managing multiple containers simultaneously requires an orchestrator like Kubernetes. Although Azure Container Instances make it easy to get containers up and running, they still don't handle container management. Container management or orchestration technology like Kubernetes would schedule the containers, monitor their health, manage failover and scaling and allow for network and service discovery.

Furthermore, container technology hasn’t yet been fully adopted within enterprise IT environments. According to Gartner, only 20% of global organizations are using containerized applications in production, however, they predict that by 2020 this ratio will increase by more than 50%.  This means that traditional virtualization will be the de facto standard for the foreseeable future.

Virtualization/Cloud Challenges and How 5nine Helps

Our Hybrid Cloud Management Platform enables our customers to simplify private and public cloud operations. In a traditional virtualization environment, DevOps has to create, manage, monitor, back up and secure each required VM. This process is incredibly complex, labor-intensive and slow.

The 5nine suite of solutions dramatically improves agility and speed by automating, simplifying and unifying many of these virtualization operations. Therefore, organizations looking for the speed of containerization but still have significant investments in cloud/virtualization can look to 5nine to simplify their virtualization operations.

Next Steps and More Resources

If you’d like to experiment with Azure Container Instances, you can get started by following the quick Azure quick-start guide here. If you’re not ready to jump into containerization just yet, we strongly urge you to check out our suite of Hybrid Cloud management and security solutions. You’ll find that they make migration, management, monitoring, backup and security much faster, easier and cost efficient.

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