What exactly is Docker?

Burak Karakan
The Startup
Published in
12 min readJan 29, 2020

Alright, we get it, “cloud” is the future and we need to use containers with all the fancy tools it offers. We are going to containerize our app, use container orchestration tools for deployments, and we have to install Docker.

Photo by Jay Mantri on Unsplash

What is a container?

Remember the good old times where you used to SSH into the production server, go to the project directory, and run git pull to deploy your code? Before you deploy anything, in the very beginning of the life of your server, you’d install all the global dependencies for your app, curl most probably, then git, maybe the interpreter for the language you want to use, and some extensions for that as well, maybe nginx at some point. Once all the dependencies are installed, you’d bring your application to the server, run some commands to install and eventually start the application.

At this point, once you pulled your code to the server, you’d start the new version of your application, or you’d restart Nginx for some changes to take effect, or whatever. This setup probably worked for a long time, until it didn’t. One of the developers in your team relied on a system dependency that has a different version installed in the production server, and now your service is down. You quickly rollback your changes, but you will need to update that dependency at some point. A worse example may be the bugs caused by these kinds of dependency differences in a weird place of your app, which means you probably wouldn’t notice until it is too late, in other words, already shipped.

Consider another example, where you’d like to run multiple applications on the same host, but you need them to be isolated for security reasons. You either need to move the applications into separate hosts, which is not cost-efficient, or you’d run two different virtual machines in the host, which would give you the isolation but the resources will be consumed by the VMs mostly rather than your application, which is still not the best way.

These problems have existed for decades now; keeping the processes separate is a huge pain, and this caused a lot of security problems as well as inefficient setups in the past.

Linux containers to the rescue

Burak Karakan
The Startup

Software Engineer @HelloFresh