What is the Sidecar container pattern

11 May 2021
5 min read

Containerization has become a major trend in software development as an alternative or companion to virtualization. It involves encapsulating or packaging up software code and all its dependencies so that it can run uniformly and consistently on any infrastructure. The technology has quickly matured and continues to evolve, resulting in measurable benefits for developers and operations teams as well as overall software infrastructure.

The concept of containerization and process isolation is decades old, but the emergence of the open source Docker Engine in 2013, an industry standard for containers with simple developer tools and a universal packaging approach, accelerated the adoption of this technology.

Containers are often referred to as “lightweight,” meaning they share the machine’s operating system kernel and do not require the overhead of associating an operating system within each application. Containers are inherently smaller in capacity than a Virtual Machine and require less start-up time, allowing far more containers to run on the same compute capacity as a single Virtual Machine. This drives higher server efficiencies and, in turn, reduces server and licensing costs.

Containers encapsulate an application as a single executable package of software that bundles application code together with all of the related configuration files, libraries, and dependencies required for it to run. Containerized applications are “isolated” in that they do not bundle in a copy of the operating system. Instead, an open source runtime engine (such as the Docker runtime engine) is installed on the host’s operating system and becomes the conduit for containers to share an operating system with other containers on the same computing system.

What is Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a portable, extensible, open-source platform for managing containerized workloads and services, that facilitates both declarative configuration and automation.

kubernetes

Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration engine for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. A pod is the basic building block of kubernetes application.

Kubernetes manages pods instead of containers and pods encapsulate containers. A pod may contain one or more containers, storage, IP addresses, and, options that govern how containers should run inside the pod.

Kubernetes caters for two different types of Pod configuration:

  • Single Container pod
  • Multi Container pod

What are Pods

Pods are implemented using Linux isolation tenets such as groups and namespaces and can be generally thought of as a Logical Host Machine. Pods run one of more containers and these containers communicate with each other in the same ways that different processes on a Virtual Machine communicate.

In order for containers within two different Pods to communicate, they need to access the other Pod (and container) via its IP. By default, only containers running on the same Pod can use lower-level methods of communication, though it is possible to configure different Pods with the availability to talk to each other via host IPC.

Single Container Pods

A generally considered best practice approach is only to take a single container per pod approach, because this enables the best opportunities to scale different parts of your application separately well at the same time keeping things simple and enabling pods to start/run without issues.

Multi Container pods

Multi container pods are more complex but are useful in various scenarios:

  • If there are multiple parts of your application that run in separate containers but are tightly coupled, you can run them both inside the same Pod to make communication and filesystem access seamless.

  • When implementing the sidecar pattern, where utility containers are injected alongside your main application to handle logging, metrics, networking, or advanced functionality such as a Service Mesh and Dapr -Distributed Application Runtime

What are Side Car Containers

Side car container is a popular Multi Container pod pattern. They are typically containers that run along with the main container in a pod, extending and enhancing the functionality of the main container without changing it.

A sidecar is a pattern where a Pod contains another container in addition to the actual application container to be run. This additional container is the sidecar. Sidecars can be used for a number of different reasons. Some of the most popular uses for sidecars are monitoring, logging, and proxying.

Pod networking

Pods have their own IP addresses that can be used in inter-pod communication. Each Pod has an IP address as well as ports, which are shared among the containers running in a Pod if there is more than one container.

Within a Pod, containers can communicate without calling the wrapping Pod's IP – instead they can simply use localhost. This is because containers within a Pod share a network namespace – in essence, they communicate via the same bridge, which is implemented using a virtual network interface.

Pod Storage

Pod storage can be either persistent or non-persistent volumes attached to a Pod. Non-persistent volumes can be used by a Pod to store data or files depending on the type, but they are deleted when the Pod shuts down. Persistent-type volumes will remain past Pod shutdown and can even be used to share data between multiple Pods or applications.

Namespaces

Namespaces are a way to logically separate different areas within your cluster. A common use case is having a namespace per environment – one for dev, one for staging, one for production – all living inside the same cluster.