Google Research

Design patterns for container-based distributed systems

  • Brendan Burns
  • David Oppenheimer
The 8th Usenix Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing (HotCloud '16) (2016)


In the late 1980s and early 1990s, object-oriented programming revolutionized software development, popularizing the approach of building of applications as collections of modular components. Today we are seeing a similar revolution in distributed system development, with the increasing popularity of microservice architectures built from containerized software components. Containers are particularly well-suited as the fundamental “object” in distributed systems by virtue of the walls they erect at the container boundary. As this architectural style matures, we are seeing the emergence of design patterns, much as we did for objectoriented programs, and for the same reason – thinking in terms of objects (or containers) abstracts away the lowlevel details of code, eventually revealing higher-level patterns that are common to a variety of applications and algorithms.

This paper describes three types of design patterns that we have observed emerging in container based distributed systems: single-container patterns for container management, single-node patterns of closely cooperating containers, and multi-node patterns for distributed algorithms. Like object oriented patterns before them, these patterns for distributed computation encode best practices, simplify development, and make the systems where they are used more reliable.

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