Containers: Are Enterprises, DevOps Ready?

We were a Gold sponsor at DockerCon Europe in Barcelona last week. It was good to see that one of the conference themes is around use cases at large corporations. This is a clear sign that containerization is going mainstream. I am somewhat of an evangelist in this respect and believe it’s time to start exploiting container technology or risk being left behind.

As a rapidly emerging technology in the DevOps toolkit, containerization is the obvious choice to help the digital enterprise build, release and run its software faster than ever before. It’s the ‘next step’ for enabling developers to do what they do best – code. And even more so in a new age of application – the modular microservice – brought about by Cloud and the Internet of Things. It moves us on from traditional virtual machines (VM) that continue to provision separate OSs for each microservice, resulting in hardware-hungry VMs supporting hardware-light microservices.

With the adoption of containers, developers have discovered an improved agility that comes from virtualizing a single OS for multiple applications, isolating the entire OS process. This makes containers perfect for applications that require agile development – which is precisely what the modern enterprise is seeking, whether it’s a new start-up or established business: speed, agility, flexibility, and the right technology to support a DevOps approach. The potential for competitive advantage is great: the ability to continuously innovate and enhance your services ahead of others in your industry.

Containerization for Developers

Today, developers are beginning to use containers to build and move applications between environments, deploying to the Cloud, a VM or even directly to bare metal. What does the future hold? Container technology is an enabler for the hybrid cloud, running workloads across a mix of environments that could include private data centers and public clouds (maybe even from different vendors). The challenge today is harmonizing the various technologies that would enable this, something being driving by groups such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The future of hybrid cloud will enable you to transport your workloads to a preferred platform, match your hybrid cloud to utilize the right resources, and balance consumption.

We should expect containers to become a driving force in the move towards the digital infrastructure. And with digital transformation a key strategy in both private and public sectors, the rationale for putting large corporation use cases on the DockerCon Europe agenda is clear. This use case is already proven for one of Europe’s top retail brands. It is using containerization to automate the provision of its infrastructure stacks as it pursues a more innovative digital strategy. It’s getting rid of wasted man hours in the development process to speed up the introduction of new features and functionality in its web presence.

In this instance, we can clearly see that containers are not simply for digital native companies. Containerization will support enterprise IT in bimodal operations where on one hand, traditional IT maintains control and accuracy, though on the other, an agile approach drives a start-up like mentality – speed, agility, and flexibility – which enables rapid innovation and the development of new customer offerings.

Beyond Development and Testing?

Currently, I’m seeing the adoption of containerization largely limited to development and testing. There is still a hesitancy around taking it on to production itself in larger, established corporates. This will surely change, just as enterprises have increasingly come to embrace the public cloud. Over the next few years, containers will join VMs to become an integral virtualization technology, supporting infrastructure to improve agility and better assist the needs of developers across the end-to-end development lifecycle through to production.

Containers are here to stay. I believe the agile enterprise should start to exploit them now as a key component of a digital infrastructure.

David Blackwood is global chief technology officer for Infra Services and head of the CTO Office at Capgemini. Read all Capgemini blogs here.

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    David H Deans:

    You said “Over the next few years, containers will join VMs to become an integral virtualization technology…”

    Perhaps Linux containers, in particular, will do more than merely join VMs — they’ll set the stage to displace the incumbent virtualization vendor in the multinational enterprise data center. While KVM didn’t gain significant market share, as many open source advocates had hoped — and thereby displace proprietary virtualization — maybe containers will be a game-changer in this regard. What’s your thoughts?

    Joe Panettieri:

    Hey David: Great to be back in touch with you. While I can’t comment on views from the author (David Blackwood), I agree with your thesis that containers could potentially displace traditional virtualization vendors.

    The First Battle: KVM vs. VMware

    Frankly, I was surprised that KVM didn’t get more momentum against VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V. I wrongly assumed that KVM would disrupt traditional virtualization the way Linux disrupted traditional operating systems. Hindsight being 20/20, I think I understand why KVM didn’t go the distance with disruption. Remember, Linux largely disrupted Unix — a reliable but expensive and highly fragmented operating system that suffered from too many vendor variants. In contrast, KVM faced a strong single-vendor opponent in VMware, which continued to innovate in its own right.

    A Second Battle: Containers vs. VMware?
    So, can containers eventually disrupt VMware? Docker certainly has incredible momentum. But I think VMware will continue to do well in the market as long as the company remains customer and partner focused — without assuming a defensive posture to protect its borders.


    Craig Deveson:

    A few years ago Enterprises added Dev/Test Workloads to public Cloud such as AWS. Now many of those initiatives are in production or part of a plan to move to Public Cloud. Case in point would be GE moving 34 or 36 data centers to AWS. I can’t see how this is good news for Vmware. I suspect that the largest use of containers will be by the companies using AWS.

    Also Docker is not home yet, there is friction with CoreOS and we don’t yet have container support for Windows so I think this is going to play out like cloud did a few years ago. Will one of the container platforms be the next Rackspace – an early leader that has to pivot. ? Whilst there is this uncertainty – corporate adoption will be slowed.

    I don’t agree with David that containers are mainstream yet. I suspect that’s a couple of years away.

    What is certain & mainstream is Enterprise adoption of AWS & Azure – Public Cloud – Much of this will be lift and shift before being re-architected using Micro-Services and Containers !

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Craig: I see eye to eye with you re: enterprise adoption of AWS and Azure (i.e., public cloud). Some hardware vendors have been trying really hard to suggest that enterprises aren’t ready yet for public cloud. I respectfully disagree.

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