Containers are incredibly useful, but managing them isn’t always easy. Orchestration tools like Kubernetes allow hundreds or even thousands of containers to be coordinated across multiple servers – but even then, running containers in production isn’t exactly a walkover.

This is where a container management platform like Rancher comes in. Rancher is an open-source tool that combines Docker containers with a choice of orchestration systems, plus a range of additional services. The idea is to integrate all the required technologies in a complete package to make it easier and faster to deploy and manage containers on a large scale.

Say howdy to infrastructure orchestration

So what is Rancher? The best way to understand it is to break it down into its main components – the first being infrastructure orchestration.

Essentially, Rancher takes computing resources (Linux hosts – either virtual or physical machines, local or in the cloud) and layers on its own infrastructure services designed for the specific needs of containerised applications: networking, storage, load balancing, DNS and security. And because these are usually deployed as containers themselves, they can easily run on any host.

Home on the range with Docker and Kubernetes

The next key component of Rancher is integrated container orchestration and scheduling. The current version of Rancher offers a choice of the most popular orchestration tools: Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Apache Mesos, plus Rancher’s own orchestration framework, Cattle.

This functionality allows Rancher users to create multiple Docker Swarm or Kubernetes clusters, with full access to the native tools of each system – all on one platform.

Saddle up in no time with the application catalogue

Rancher’s application catalogue is a major time-saver. This feature provides a library of ready-made templates to greatly simplify the deployment of complex stacks, allowing the user to deploy multi-container clustered applications with just a few clicks.

Rancher offers a public catalogue where you’ll find popular applications contributed by the community, and you can also create your own private catalogue.

Secure your herd with enterprise access control

Finally, Rancher provides enterprise-grade access control through support for flexible user authentication plugins and role-based access control (RBAC) at environment level. In other words, highly customisable settings when it comes to deciding who gets access to your Rancher environments, and who doesn’t.

This can be extremely useful when you want to share or deny access to various environments independently. Such as when there’s a split between development and production, for example.

Rounding up: why use Rancher?

Infrastructure orchestration, container scheduling, stack deployment and access control – without a tool like Rancher, an organisation would have to implement all of these from scratch, and manage them separately. By providing the entire software stack on a single platform, Rancher can save a lot of time, effort and resources.

If you’re considering Rancher for your containerised applications, the CloudNX cloud hosting platform is the perfect place to try it out. Get dedicated resources and only pay for the time and performance you actually need for your projects, while always relying on UK data centres and 24/7 UK based-support.