Why Do You Need A Private Container Registry?

by:

DevOps

Containerization has revolutionized how we develop and deploy applications. Containers allow users to build software packages that bundle all the necessary configurations, dependencies, and libraries within a single software package (container) that can be easily deployed in any environment.

Container registries are one aspect that powers the portability of containers. These container registries act as repositories that contain prebuilt container images that can be retrieved (pulled) and deployed in any supported environment from local docker installations to Kubernetes clusters. Container registries are analogous to software repositories as users are free to search and download any publicly available container images. 

What is a Private Container Registry?

As the name suggests, a private container registry is a container registry that is inaccessible to the public and is only for internal use within an organization or simply for the private use of an individual developer. 

There are public container registries like DockerHub and Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR), where anyone can publish container images. Private providers like the Google Container Registry, Azure Container Registry, and DigitalOcean Container registry offer dedicated private registries. These private registries can even be self-hosted and run on on-premise environments.

The Need For A Private Container Registry

The need for a private container registry can be summed up into two words: control and security. The best part is that it will significantly reduce the chances of users encountering errors related to pulling images such as Imagepullbackoff, or ErrImagePull. Even if you encounter such an error, it can be quickly remedied as users control all the aspects of the image push and pull process. In this section, let’s look at different use-cases of private container registries.

Securing the Software Development Process

The primary reason for using private container registries is to protect the source of your development. In a public repository, anyone can access the built containers exposing the intellectual property of the organization. Therefore, private container registries are a must in any container-based software development lifecycle.

Moreover, a private registry allows users to safely store the build artifacts (container images) in a private environment granting access only for internal teams. Thus, the development will remain an internal affair without being exposed to the public. Not only that, these images can be pulled from the private registries themselves, even at deployment time. 

Suppose you are a small development team that can use public container registries for test purposes with a workflow of deleting uploaded container images from the public registry afterward. Even so, it is inevitable that users will quickly hit some limitations, such as the rate limits imposed by DockerHub, which are hard limits in most public repositories with little or no option to extend. There, private container registries come to the rescue by providing a way to easily scale up when needed while providing developers with an independent registry. Besides, there’s no reason to use public registries for private projects with free private registry services available with services providers like TreeScale, DigitalOcean, Canister, GitLab, and GitHub.

Simpler Integration and Control when incorporating with CI/CD Pipelines

CI/CD pipelines are the backbone of modern software delivery. In a container delivery pipeline, building the containers and publishing them in an image repository are integral steps in the overall pipeline. 

Therefore, speed, reliability, and integration methods are important factors to consider in a container registry. As private container registries are dedicated for each user and come with a service level agreement for availability, users can confidently use them in a delivery pipeline without negatively impacting the efficiency of the pipeline. 

On top of that, private registries offer developers the freedom to implement multi-registry pipelines separating each project or environment into dedicated repositories. These dedicated repositories further simplify container image management. Furthermore, users are free to implement access control, integration strategies, etc., according to the needs of the delivery pipeline as private registries can be configured to suit the development needs. All these advantages accumulated lead to a more stable pipeline with fewer unexpected bottlenecks and a better troubleshooting experience when dealing with container image issues. As private container registries can be self-hosted, the control can be easily extended to the infrastructure level in a self-hosted registry.  

Compliance and Security

Since security is a primary concern in any development, aspects like access control, overall infrastructure, and application security play a vital role in any application development process. Private container registries provide the ideal solution for these needs as they offer isolated environments to store the container images with tightly configurable access control. Furthermore, when it comes to compliance, the data stored in private container registries are inherently more secure and can even be more tightly controlled as the registries are private entities. This way,  private container registries allow developers to meet compliance requirements while offering a seamless deployment experience.

Conclusion

A Private Container Registry enables users to obtain a more secure and flexible environment to manage their container images. With the increased need for faster developments with stricter compliance and security requirements, private container registries can be the ideal solution for dealing with container images while providing a seamless development and management experience.

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