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Michael Levan February 16, 2023 5 min read

Why Should Every Engineer Care About Portainer? (2023 Edition)

There are a lot of tools and platforms in the containerization and orchestration space. If you look at the CNCF landscape, there are over 1,000. It’s too much for engineers to choose from.
In the days of bare-metal and virtualization, you had/have two primary hypervisors to choose from - ESXi and Hyper-V.

You had two enterprise network equipment manufacturers to choose from - Cisco and Juniper.

Now, you have hundreds of tools and platforms to choose from.
So, why would you choose Portainer? Well, it’s because there are too many options and Portainer makes adopting them easier. You can’t dwindle down the number of options available, but you can make them easier to use.
In this blog post, you’ll learn why.

What’s Portainer And Why Should You Care
I run a Kubernetes and containerization community that meets up (virtually) once per week. As we were chatting, someone in the community brought up Portainer. It ended up turning into about 30 minutes of conversation about the various ways you can use, deploy, and run workloads on Portainer.

The thing that made everyone’s eyes get wide open was showing how to deploy the tools/platforms with and without Portainer.

For example, GitOps. I showed the various methods of deploying GitOps controllers with code, commands, and how it all looks when you must scale. I then showed the button click (literally) in Portainer to turn on GitOps. What would take 15-20 minutes to fully configure (not counting the hours you have to take to learn about how and why to implement it) before now takes half a second (not exaggerating).

So… What’s Portainer? It’s a way to make your containerization and orchestration 
(Kubernetes, Nomad, Swarm) life easier from an adoption and usability perspective. It takes the tools/platforms you’d usually deploy and simplifies utilizing and implementing the process regardless of where you’re running (cloud, on-prem, or hybrid).

Home Users (Yeah, Lab It Up)
Portainer is a platform that you can run anywhere. On bare metal, on a VM, a Docker container running locally, a Kubernetes cluster, and anywhere else that Docker can run. 
Because of that, it’s an amazing option to run your home lab.

As you’re learning about containerization and orchestration, you’re going to need to have some type of home lab. Whether it’s in the cloud or in your home (I have an Intel NUC Extreme for my home lab running several VMs). You can have a laptop that’s beefy enough to run a few workloads or a home server that you can pick up for a couple of hundred bucks on eBay. Regardless of what direction you go in, you’ll need a way to manage all of those Docker containers and orchestration clusters.

That’s where Portainer comes in.
Not only is there a community edition of Portainer that’s completely free, but there’s also the business version and you can use five (5) nodes for free. All of the features are turned on for the business edition if you don’t pay for it. The only caveat is it works up to five (5) nodes.

You can install it here (takes about 3-4 minutes).

You’re New To Containers and Kubernetes (Hey Sysadmins…)
When I first started my career, it was all bare-metal and virtual machines. In fact, I remember so vividly thinking to myself “Wow, this Active Directory thing is awesome. I can specialize in this for the rest of my career”. Then, things changed. I found myself in startups that were using the latest and greatest tools/platforms. My role began to shift and I was focused more on software development and eventually SRE (which is now considered DevOps or Platform Engineering).

Point being - I had a unique experience in my career. If I didn’t go and work for startups, I would’ve continued down the infrastructure path.

There are a lot of engineers that continued down the infrastructure path managing VMs, networks, storage, and data centers for 20+ years. With all of that experience (which is very much needed for containerization and orchestration), although great, they may have not had the opportunity to dive into containers and orchestration. With the way that the tech space is going right now, they’ll need to.

That’s where Portainer can again, come into play.

Organizations that don’t know anything about orchestration can almost come to Portainer for consulting advice and engineering advice about, and not about, the product.

Portainer often speaks with potential customers and spends 30+ minutes explaining how to think about containers and how to implement them. It ends up not even being about Portainer. Why?

Because the engineers and leadership team at Portainer actually care about helping the community with overall container and orchestration adoption, even if it’s not with Portainer.

Make It Easy (Your Platform Teams Have Enough To Do…)
In the opening of this blog post, a case was made for how many tools/platforms there are in today’s cloud-native world. Outside of the tools/platforms for containerization and orchestration, there’s a lot that DevOps/SRE/Platform (insert more titles here) Engineers need to do in their day-to-day.
To rattle off a few:
  • CICD
  • Infrastructure management
  • Cloud management
  • Infrastructure-as-Code
  • Configuration Management
  • Security
  • Meetings
  • Email

and probably about 1 gazillion million billion other things (exaggerating…sort of).

Because of that, having a platform that simplifies your container and orchestration adoption makes not only adoption easier, but overall usability across teams easier.

One conversation I had recently was with a co-founder that knew Kubernetes and containerization very well as he’s been working with it for several years now. The thing is, his team didn’t know Kubernetes inside and out. Quite frankly, he didn’t want them to. Why? Because it takes a massive amount of time to understand Kubernetes inside and out, and his team had a million other things that they had to do. The core focus wasn’t Kubernetes. The core focus was having a production-ready platform up and running to build, ship, and deploy workloads.

Implementing Portainer takes away the need to know Kubernetes, containerization, and orchestration inside and out. It abstracts that knowledge from you so you can focus on what you’re deploying and running for your users.

Worry about deploying and scaling your apps. Portainer will take care of the rest.

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Michael Levan

Michael Levan is a seasoned engineer and consultant in the Kubernetes space who spends his time working with startups and enterprises around the globe on Kubernetes and cloud-native projects. He also performs technical research, creates real-world, project-focused content, and coaches engineers on how to cognitively embark on their engineering journey. He is a DevOps pro, HashiCorp Ambassador, AWS Community Builder, and loves helping the tech community by public speaking internationally, blogging, and authoring tech books.