According to StackOverflow, Docker was the 3d most popular technology in 2021 among over 83,000 surveyed developers. Thus, the application of Docker containers in IoT development is growing. The ease of building and deploying IoT solutions using Docker has made it an ultimate solution for engineers and DevOps teams, especially in implementing new features and advanced solutions.
With years of experience in software development, WebbyLab has been delivering advanced IoT solutions across different industries. In our portfolio, you can find a variety of case studies dedicated to eLearning, eCommerce, smart home, B2B, and other segments, all built using Docker containers.
Our team, developers, QAs, and managers, are aware of the key principles of using Docker for IoT solutions and are continually applying them across current projects.
Some of the latest projects in our portfolio related to Docker container development are smart home IoT solutions 2smart and Ezlo. Our team helped these startups launch powerful IoT platforms. They enable connecting devices from multiple IoT vendors into a single multifunctional network.
In this article, we’ll introduce the major principles of using Docker for IoT apps, uncovering their efficiency and usage specifics. You’ll also discover the experience of WebbyLab, as well as learn how to find a dedicated team of developers for your IoT project.
By the way, not so long ago we created a detailed guide about ecommerce ecosystems, so if you are interested, read it after reading this article.
As we know, containers natively support all the IoT devices features with limited resource capacity. They’re easy to deploy, efficient, and scalable, thus ideally working for developing, installing, and updating IoT applications of any type.
Below we’ve uncovered some of the best benefits of using Docker for IoT development. What can Docker help you with?
Since the app services of nearly all the IoT projects run in Docker, we managed to easily and quickly launch all our applications through the docker-compose system. In most cases, this eliminates the need to perform the QA process. Everything gets tested in the Docker environment on the local machines. The result? The IoT applications demo will likely work smoothly with all the features on board.
Developers can easily deploy IoT applications with Docker, and run the apps through a Docker-compose environment. What is more, to start the app, you no longer require the add-on tools such as, for instance, Node.js. This feature allows for improving the quality of the delivered product and can speed up the overall app delivery process.
The main advantage of Docker for IoT apps is its isolation. It is perfect for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). Developers require fewer utilities and services installed on the server and can instead work with the app images with the pre-installed environment.
When building Internet of Things apps with Docker containers, you can run, compile or test the application directly in Docker and stay sure it works identically to the app image located on the server.
This is great for IoT applications built in different environments (Python, Node.js, C++, and others), as it helps to significantly speed up the app development, testing, and delivery.
Last but not least, the most important benefit of combining Docker and IoT applications is its ability to create backups of different app versions. Therefore, if any issues are detected, developers can simply roll back to the previous version of the IoT app and implement the updates from scratch.
Moreover, sometimes we give up on some services (for example, integrations with specific social media platforms) or need custom ready-to-market solutions. Being able to run Docker on IoT device, WebbyLab developers can easily configure and manage the required functionality to directly match the client’s goals.
So far, we’ve explained the potential of using Docker containers and IoT applications within a single project. Now, let’s focus on the core features of these containers and how to use them to launch a perfect IoT solution.
In terms of development specifics, Docker containers enable simple and faster app configuration and upgrades, and high portability of the application and containers.
Docker works perfectly for microservice-driven development. In most cases, IoT microservices on Docker containers are extremely scalable and can be developed using different programming languages (Java, Python, C++, and more). Also, this development model features high modularity and easy problem troubleshooting, which are considered Docker’s most useful features.
According to Gartner, container-based apps are much better in terms of security than those deployed on bare OS. Some of Docker’s key points here include container isolation, limited use range of libraries and tools, and security scan – all of which positively impact the IoT app security updates.
Docker also supports a wide range of cloud computing services. It means Docker containers and IoT applications can be deployed in nearly any popular public cloud solution. For instance, this includes Docker Cloud, cloud services from Google, Amazon (AWS), Microsoft, and many other vendors.
Being compatible with tools like Jenkins, Git, and GitHub, Docker enables developers to improve the Continuous Delivery pipeline using fewer resources. Thus, you can scale the app script development, automate tasks and enhance the overall delivery process of your IoT solution.
With the best Docker containers for IoT onboarded, engineers can significantly enhance the workflow and speed up the deliverables, ensuring zero down times. Developers no longer need to care about the OS they will run the app script on. The operations staff values the flexibility which comes with Docker-powered applications. They’re lightweight, easily manageable, and require fewer systems because of lower overhead, which can reduce the overall development cost.
Once you decide to apply Docker in IoT development, it’s critical to study the specifics of working with this tool in distributed and remote environments. Let’s now learn how to run Docker on IoT devices in five easy steps on the example of its application on microcomputers such as Raspberry Pi.
Docker’s setup is pretty easy and can be performed within a single command on Linux-powered machines. If your target OS is Windows or macOS, you can also find the corresponding desktop packages and follow the instructions to get it set.
Once the installation is completed, you can start building images and applying containers to develop the desired IoT application. Typically, developers run one service per container. In more complex projects you may require deploying multiple containers at a time.
In this case, you can use Docker Compose, a Python-based solution that facilitates working with different images designed for the selected platform of your IoT device.
At this stage, you’re all set for creating the environment for your IoT application project. Modify the “live parameters,” change configurations, create backups, and plan prototypes to make your Docker environment functional, efficient, and versatile to ideally meet your current goals and needs.
This will help you build various images, ensuring your IoT device’s highest performance quality.
When the image is ready to go live, it’s time to deploy those to your IoT device. Docker containers are straightforward to upload, as their runtime overhead is almost equal to zero. This enables quick testing of different containers on a device, which is exceptionally important in the comparison and troubleshooting stages.
Manufacturing the device and deploying the IoT app is only halfway through. According to IBM, container-based development requires implementing stateless cloud applications. It ensures full-time access to the required data and effortless sharing across different devices.
Today, cloud solutions and IoT are inseparable, as they allow for improving device connectivity and creating a long-term, scalable IoT ecosystem. The most popular cloud services used for Docker-based IoT projects are AWS, Microsoft Azure, Kamatera, A2 Hosting, and more.
At WebbyLab, we’ve been working with container-based app images for years. That is why we’re aware of all the challenges that come with that development model and ready to deliver Docker-based projects of any complexity and for nearly any business.
Here are some of the common challenges we’re regularly dealing with in practice:
To deliver cross-platform IoT software with Docker, it’s possible to apply the desktop Docker versions, designed specifically for Windows and macOS systems.
However, as you know, this option is limited in functionality. WebbyLab mostly uses servers working on Linux distributions, which facilitates the prototyping process.
For instance, the services based on AMD64 architecture won’t run on machines with ARM architecture (Raspberry Pi, Orange Pi, MacOS M1 chip, etc.). Due to this, developers need to manually build images supporting each architecture individually, which is not always possible in terms of limited time or resources.
At WebbyLab, we utilize the Buildx tool – Docker’s response for creating multi-arch images. This enables our team to launch easily configurable applications for different architectures.
Finally, we use container development to perform more specific processes, for instance, compiling firmware. With Docker, our team needs fewer tools and utilities in the process. Instead, we can only download the app image with the pre-installed set of tools, just run the Docker environment and compile the firmware required.
The architecture of nearly all the IoT applications delivered by WebbyLab is based on microservices. That is why we have deep expertise in using Docker across various projects in different industries. Understanding the slightest specifics of Docker-based development helps our developers to successfully deploy and improve innovative IoT solutions that ideally work for different business needs. At WebbyLab, we also utilize Docker for providing point solutions to various tasks such as firmware compilation which would be hard to achieve without Docker.
So, if you’re planning to deliver an IoT project based on the Docker container system – WebbyLab developers are always here to help!
Developing a Docker-powered application for IoT is a proven way to get a functional, robust software solution at a reasonable time and lower cost. Docker containers feature higher security, a simplified deployment process, and reduced code errors, which is exceptionally important for launching a long-term IoT application.
Nevertheless, to maximize the potential of your Docker container IoT project, finding the right development team is essential. At WebbyLab, we have been delivering reliable and efficient Docker-based IoT solutions for years and apply this tool for various targeted issues and tasks.
Learn more about how we engage and what our experts can do for your business
Head of IoT at Webbylab
Kostiantyn started his career in IT at Webbylab, where he quickly grew from the position of a tester to the role of a manager and business analyst. When the company’s management decided to develop the IoT direction, Kostia became one of its key figures.
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