Why VCs Have Invested More Than $200M in Container Tech

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2016-05-16 Print this article Print
container investments

Aside from startups, there are the established players like Red Hat, which is investing its own resources in containers, with its Project Atomic and the commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host product, as well as the OpenShift platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology that relies on containers. IBM is also betting big on containers, as is VMware and Microsoft.

So why is all the investment pouring into the container ecosystem?

The answer is simple. It's about the future of applications. The legacy approach to application development, deployment and management is relatively intricate, with complex stacks of hardware and interdependant code libraries in order for an application to run. The promise of containers, the promise that Docker first defined, isn't just about the container, but about the container packaging format. With the Docker image format, an application can be packaged to run on any Docker engine-enabled host. Rather than needing a separate operating system, as is the case with a traditional virtual machine, a Docker-style container makes use of resources from the underlying host operating system, enabling better performance and application density.

The Docker image format is now evolving to become a broader standard from the Linux Foundation's Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) that defines a standard container image format. This isn't a "Docker-only" party, though Docker is the early leader. The container revolution is going to be a standards-based approach with interoperability across implementations, a core promise.

Security is also the core promise of the container revolution. At the CoreOS Fest event in Berlin last week, I moderated a keynote Fireside chat with Linux security luminary Matthew Garrett, principal security engineer at CoreOS. The long and the short of the conversation is that applications can be run more securely inside containers than outside of them. CoreOS and Docker Inc. have invested and deployed robust scanning tools for application container security, as well as trusted computing mechanisms to validate the integrity of hardware and software.

Investors are interested in containers because they represent the future of all computing although it's still relatively early days for the technology. Rather than the legacy approach of monolithic stacks on which applications run, the container revolution offers the opportunity for a microservices future in which application development, deployment and management is more agile and inherently more secure.

The container future is now being defined by early adopter developers and forward-thinking organizations that are pushing vendors and contributing to open-source projects to get the technologies they need. As container use grows in organizations of all sizes, there will be a growing need for vendors to support users, and that's the opportunity that investors see today. Investors see a future in which container use is mainstream, and so too are paying container customers.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.



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