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AWS Fargate: Run Containers Without Managing Servers or Clusters

May 11, 2020 8:42:15 AM

by Charles Bystock

Containerization is about to get an upgrade. Although the idea of running deployments in the protected environments found in Docker, Kubernetes, or Amazon’s Elastic Container Service (ECS) is attractive, in practice, there have been a few complexities that created hurdles for deployment teams. That’s all about to change with next-generation AWS Fargate, which eliminated clusters and servers.

The drawbacks of containers

Arguably, containerized architecture is one of the most dramatic improvements to developer efficiency in the last few years. While Linux had the technology available in the early 2000’s, it wasn’t widely adopted as standard operating procedure (SOP) for software engineering until Docker arrived on the scene.

For the uninitiated, containers are virtual holding tanks that allow applications to run and be tested in a protected environment. A container will typically hold the software application along with any dependencies, libraries, and configuration files that support the product.

There is little doubt that containers have allowed developers to improve the performance of software builds across formerly inconsistent environments. Containerization offers developers control and streamlines processes for greater efficiencies. This new approach lessened the need for dedicated servers, system admins, and DevOps.

But there were drawbacks to Docker, Kubernetes, and ECS that presented challenges for developers. For example:

  • Individual containers share components of the host operating system, which means one security vulnerability could affect the entire test infrastructure.
  • There’s less flexibility in operating systems and their configuration.
  • Networking is challenging and managing computer clusters is complex.

The key drawback of containerization is that it must be managed. There are operational burdens to scale and monitor tasks, servers, clusters, and containers, as well as difficulty in networking and, of course, security. These responsibilities happen across all container services, except for one — AWS Fargate.

AWS Fargate offers your DevOps or developer teams a preset container that handles networking, scaling, and security. With AWS Fargate, you run containers directly in the cloud. Technology has moved the needle again — past the choice of containers or cloud — into a solution that gives you the best of both worlds.

Introducing AWS Fargate

Containerization has always had big benefits that reduce complexity by leveraging automation. But many developers ended up creating custom systems to manage containers. Over time, this added a layer of costs and man-hours, making this DIY approach unwieldy and potentially expensive.

One option is to use a cluster manager, like Kubernetes, to control complex testing and deployment topologies (e.g., infrastructure, middleware, app layers) of an application. AWS Fargate, however, eliminates management architectures to improve the workflows of your team.

AWS Fargate is the companion to Amazon ECS. It was introduced a few years ago but didn’t receive much attention by developers at the onset. The tides may be changing as teams have discovered the pitfalls of containers and serverless computing, and are starting to explore their options.

AWS Fargate functions as a compute engine that allows the developer to run containers without the added work to manage clusters or servers. By simply specifying the resources needed for each container, AWS Fargate can then handle permissions and complex access rules. It’s containerization as a service (CaaS) and, unlike Heroku or Lambda, AWS Fargate supports any type of technology or system you choose to run.

Benefits of AWS Fargate

AWS Fargate enables developers to concentrate on good, clean code instead of managing the container architecture by following four simple steps:

  1. Package the application into containers.
  2. Specify the CPU/memory requirements.
  3. Define networking and identity and access management (IAM) policies.
  4. Launch the application.

Not only does AWS Fargate allow developers to focus on building, testing, and operating applications, it also eliminates the need for cluster management and scales seamlessly. Developers can embed security within the container and eliminate the dependency on the underlying infrastructure. AWS Fargate is fully integrated with Amazon ECS and can lower overall costs for the organization as well.

The biggest complaint about AWS Fargate was the cost. That is, until January 2019 when they issued a price reduction on the service. Companies only pay for the resources they have defined in their tasks. This made AWS Fargate more cost-effective when compared to competitors.

AWS Fargate deployments could be a significant game changer in your infrastructure management strategy. Talk with Windsor Group Sourcing Advisory to understand your options in this new environment.

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