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What is a container registry?

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Red Hat named a Leader in the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™

Red Hat was positioned highest for ability to execute and furthest for completeness of vision in the Gartner 2023 Magic Quadrant for Container Management.

A container registry is a repository—or collection of repositories—used to store and access container images. Container registries can support container-based application development, often as part of DevOps processes. Container registries can connect directly to container orchestration platforms like Docker and Kubernetes

Container registries save developers valuable time in the creation and delivery of cloud-native applications, acting as the intermediary for sharing container images between systems.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation says containers (including container images and registries) and microservices are the foundation for cloud-native app development. Containers and microservices are fully self-contained, making them a powerful tool for creating portable, cloud-native applications. 

Containers isolate the application processes, runtime files, and OS dependencies from the rest of the system. They promise greater portability across hybrid cloud environments and can be deployed for much shorter periods of time than virtual machines (VMs). This makes it easier for developers to push to and pull what they need from a container registry, allowing them to focus on building a great product, without the distraction of underlying infrastructure or execution details.

In a DevOps environment, the use of containersand container images/registriesallow developers to deploy each application service independently, eliminating the need to merge code changes, improving testing, and helping with fault isolation in both testing and production.

There are 2 types of container registries: public and private. 

Public registries are commonly used by individuals or small teams that want to get up and running with their registry as quickly as possible. However, as their organizations grow, this can bring more complex security issues like patching, privacy, and access control that can arise. 

Private registries provide a way to incorporate security and privacy into enterprise container image storage, either hosted remotely or on-premises. These private registries often come with advanced security features and technical support. 

Most cloud providers offer private image registry services:Google offers the Google Container Registry, AWS provides Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR), and Microsoft has the Azure Container Registry.

Using a private, internal registry affords the greatest potential for security and configuration, but it requires careful managing and ensuring the registry’s infrastructure and access controls stay within your organization. 

Some important things to to consider when choosing a private container registry service for your enterprise include:

  • Support for multiple authentication systems

  • Role-based access control management (RBAC) for local images

  • Vulnerability scanning capabilities for enhanced security and configuration

  • Ability to record use in auditable logs so that activity can be traced to a single user

  • Optimized for automation

A private registry’s enterprise-ready features allow organizations to internally access container images in a secure and efficient manner. Multiple authentication systems put measures in place to verify the container image stored in it. 

For example, the image must be digitally signed by the person uploading it before it can be pushed to the registry, as well as to enable activity tracking and prevent unauthorized user uploads.

RBAC manages which user actions are allowed based on the individual’s role. A developer would need access to upload to and download from the registry, while a team member or tester would only need access to download. For organizations with a user management system like Active Directory (AD) or lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP), that system can be linked to the container registry directly and used for RBAC.

A company can choose to create and deploy their own container registry, or they can choose a commercially-supported private registry service. 

Red Hat® OpenShift® is an enterprise-ready Kubernetes container platform that offers consistency across any cloud infrastructure—managing hybrid cloud, multicloud, and edge deployments. Through Red Hat OpenShift, an environment for a new microservice or application can be provisioned in minutes. In addition to other cloud services like middleware, languages, frameworks, and databases, it already includes a private registry that provides basic functionality to manage your container images. 

Private registries can be deployed as part of a Red Hat OpenShift-managed service on a cloud provider from Red Hat’s rich partner ecosystem, offering a seamless experience on Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, or Google Cloud. Red Hat OpenShift supports integration with other private registries you may already be using, such as JFrog’s Artifactory and Sonatype Nexus.

Red Hat also offers self-managed services that build on its hybrid cloud foundation with enhanced security features and additional software elements you might use in your data center. If you need more advanced security and technical support functionalities,Red Hat Quay is available as a standalone, scalable enterprise registry option.

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