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Why containers are like Google Docs

I was thinking the other day about the journey from paper to Google Docs, and how it’s similar to the journey from hardware to containers. How did we get from Point A to Point B? The road is long and winding, but please stick with me. For the purpose of this analogy, forget about FTP, SSH, and remote access; just think back to how people shared copies of development environments, aka drafts. It all started off pretty tedious.

Remember paper? You wrote on it. You could physically pass it or even mail it to other people. In fact, the only way to share it was by mailing it. Different people could make changes to the document, but they would need physical access to do so. It was tough to know who had done what, and anything written on the paper was more or less permanent. Oh, you could erase the marks on the paper, but the paper was never really the same (especially depending on what kind of writing instrument was used).   

When you think of it, server hardware of old is a lot like paper. If you needed a server—usually for a dedicated application—you had it shipped to you. You’d need to load an OS, the application, and maybe some management and security software. You’d have to have to make firmware updates, and chances were good that you needed physical access to the system to do all of this stuff. We called this process “burn in.” Multiple people could make changes to the system, but it was tough to know who had done what. And, while the system could be wiped for a different purpose down the line, the server was never really the same. More important, it had to be shipped to its new home, like a letter.

We’ve come a long way, baby—thank goodness!

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