In the 90’s, virtualization in the x86 space took the industry by storm by becoming the de-facto standard in the data center. It transformed the way IT was implemented and consumed for decades. In current times, if there is one technology which can emulate that today, all bets would be on containers. While the buzz in the marketplace is getting stronger for containers, decisions makers understand that there is still a long way to go before it matches the effect that virtualization has had on IT. The game, however, has already begun and is snowballing with every passing day.
Decoding the hype
Compared to VMs, containers are lightweight, and much more beneficial when measured in megabytes. They perform efficiently with an instant start and remove bottlenecks such as management and license costs. In addition, containers also provide better control on resource allocation and utilization, consistent configuration for from Dev, to Test, to QA, to Prod, and portability across environment. Container technology encapsulates minimal resources that an application modernization requires to function as intended, empowering you to consistently run software when relocated from one computing environment to another- Public, Private, or Hybrid Cloud. It serves as an alternative for deploying and running distributed applications without launching an entire VM for all application dependencies (such as, libraries, utilities, and configuration files). Containers, therefore, bring the necessary agility, portability, and speed by packaging the application dependencies within the container layer, thereby scoring over traditional VMs.
The value proposition for containers that started off from developer and admins has now extended itself to other teams like quality assurance, security, and infrastructure as well. The basic premise of microservices to benefit in multiple ways has garnered a lot of interest and played its part in rapid adoption in the last year. The top use cases for containers are generally continuous delivery, continuous integration, new microservices app, and legacy app to microservices.
In 2016, the industry witnessed a substantial growth in container adoption rate across verticals as more companies jumped into the bandwagon with different options and started looking at maturing this technology. But, is the adoption rate same across small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprises? While SMBs are nimble, some of them are born as a Cloud native organization, thereby utilizing something like containers from the beginning. Enterprise organizations on the other hand, continue to walk gradually into container usage owing to security, tangible ROI, legacy apps, and traditional mindset of handling application modernization services. The scenario is changing in enterprises now but at its own pace with few leaps in 2016. Simplification in deploying, managing, and orchestrating containers at scale was the key change that is pushing container usage.
Container technology is also playing their part in adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Next generation infrastructure for IoT and edge computing requires fundamental design changes to solve some of the central challenges which include:
- Isolation of software on IoT devices
- Lightweight isolation platform
- Security updates on low network bandwidth, securely and centrally
- Automated fleet management of IoT devices
- Initial configuration (self-configurable)
- Maintaining redundancy
A recent research done by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) also suggests container technology as a promising solution for the deployment of IoT applications. Many organizations have developed IoT platforms on Rubbery Pie, Banana Pie or similar compute platforms using Docker and are managing it using Mesosphere/Kubernetes/Docker Swarm.
Major Public Cloud providers (AWS, Azure and Google) are already offering IoT solution built on containers. The key advantage of container is the scale, speed, security, and automation and it promises a lot for future.
On the other hand, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed, prime reason being the still nascent but fast growing ecosystem. As containers are relatively new technology in the market, there also exists a skill gap. A significantly large number of containers, however, will also give rise to greater complexity as enterprise applications move from being monolithic to one with microservices.
Market realities and the way forward
The market, therefore, is booming with players ranging from providing niche to a plethora of services. We can categorize this market based on four segments namely applications, deployments, verticals, and regions. Amongst the four regions, USA is set to be the leading region for CaaS (Container as a Service) adoption followed by Europe in the race for this technology adoption. Asia Pacific and MEA remain to be the emerging regions. (Source: June, 2017 /PRNewswire)
As containers start to gain adoption and transform the IT landscape, its success would not only depend on simplifying technology but how well the process and people’s aspects of organization get aligned to this new wave. This is similar to the 90’s virtualization wave where transformation happened threefold in data centers with people gaining new skills and processes and benefitting from new technologies.
Lastly, containers are also rapidly evolving in “as-a-service” approach where organizations can deploy containers without having to build/test and configure the entire container software stack themselves. HCL’s ContainerizIT offering provides this triangulated framework in an easy to consume services approach that can help enterprises quickly realize significant value. This can transform both their application infrastructure and bring business agility rapidly. HCL’s offering takes into account all four stages of consulting, assessment, migrate, and operate and provides a complete package to run containers on any form and choice of container Cloud computing. Containers, therefore, have the potential of enabling the next wave of modernization that can be supported by automation and process frameworks to bring the much needed agility and security in this digital era.