How to explain containers in simple terms

Jan 12, 2021

Hey there! Welcome to part 2 of our series of articles where we explain in simple terms the awesome tech that runs behind the scenes at Edgegap. If you’ve followed part 1 about edge computing, we can now all agree that having your workplace at the corner of your street is the best way to save commute time. To follow the analogy, I’ll now do my best to explain how Edgegap can bring the workplaces of millions of workers worldwide closer to their homes with the help of container technology.

Building on part 1 of the series, you probably understand that the commute time we are talking about is player latency, and your workplace is in fact a game server. That’s the core of what we do; provide game server hosting closer to the players with the help of edge computing. But we need more than just edge computing to accomplish that goal. A main piece of the puzzle is a technology called containerization.

Now, what’s a container? If you are more on the technical side of things, I’d refer you to this pretty good article from Docker, but if you are like me and only somewhat computer savvy, here’s a good analogy:

Containers are similar to a Zip file. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of vulgarization, let’s look at how Containers are similar to Zip files and how we can use that in a multiplayer game setting:

  1. Inside the box

All the files needed to host a game server are stored in a box (or a container, get it?). The box is standardized and it keeps your game server files and all the other files you need to run it. For example, to run your game server you might also need the license of your netcode implementation. When we include all dependencies, we are able to make sure that the game server, once unzipped, will have everything needed to host a match.

  1. Ease of distribution

It’s a lot easier to distribute or share zip files. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons the Zip format was created. It works exactly the same for containers, since the game server and all its tools are now in a box it becomes easy and cost-efficient to distribute it to a wide variety of locations around the world. As easy as sharing your holiday photos to all your family members.

  1. Match time and continuity

Okay nice, now we know that the game server can be zipped and then we can send it to all of our edge locations, but how does that affect the way a match is played out? For the end-user, nothing really changes. The magic happens behind the scenes. Since all our edge locations have the zipped file of the game server, it can be deployed (or unzipped) under 10 seconds and is now active to receive nearby players to play a match.

An important thing to notice here is that, just like a zip, the original zip file containing the game server can be unzipped again, as many times as needed, to welcome an increasing amount of new players at the location.

Also, once the match is over, the active/unzipped files will be shut down so as to not take unnecessary space on the machine. That makes it very resource-efficient, since the resources are taken up only for the specific duration of the match. This can bring cost saving opportunities for game studios, but that’s a topic for another article!

Now let’s go back to our main question: How can Edgegap create, on the fly, a copy of your workplace for you to work at without huge commute time? We zip together everything that makes your workplace your workplace; your chair, desk, computer, printer, mug family picture and even your favourite coffee blend! Once your workplace is zipped, we put a copy of it to all of our locations waiting for you to arrive. Once you arrive, BAM! We unzip everything and we are ready to welcome you within a few seconds. And what about your coworkers, or rather the players you will play with or against? Edgegap will find the best location between all the players so that everyone has the lowest latency possible!

That’s a lot to unpack (pun definitely intended), but in short that’s how Edgegap uses the power of both edge computing and container technology to offer the best game hosting service out there.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to know more!

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