Containers Make Their Mark in the Enterprise

By Scot Petersen  |  Posted 2016-02-13 Print this article Print
Container Summit

Despite the enthusiasm of its participants, the container movement is still young—Cantrill describes it as "pubescent"—and much needs to be accomplished on several fronts to pave the way for containers to be as ubiquitous as virtual machines are today.

One area is standards, and this is where things get confusing, even for those participating in the current standards projects, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the Open Container Initiative. The problem lies with the fact that Docker is a company that wants to be a standard. To be clear, Docker is open source, and Docker the company participates in the standards bodies, and like Kleenex and tissue paper, Docker is synonymous with containers. We've seen before what this can lead to.

But there are many pieces of the container ecosystem beyond Docker's container format, like run-time environments and orchestration tools, that need to grow up and around the container concept in a way that won't strangle innovation. Areas the developers at the Summit contend need to mature include security, persistent storage and making it all easier to use.

Wither VMware?

A nagging question around containers is what all this will mean for current VMware shops. Right now, nothing. VMware runs containers. Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google and OpenStack all support and run containers. Whether those environments are the best for running containers is subject to debate. Containers on one of the large cloud players still run within a hypervisor. Container advocates say those same containers will run better, and less expensively, on bare metal, or on the very thinnest OS, like Joyent's Triton, Alpine, or CoreOS' namesake product.

Still, there's too much infrastructure built up around traditional VMs for containers to come along and topple them all at once, or at all. Containers should be viewed as a new way of developing applications. Data from Forrester, Gartner and others show that virtually all new apps will be developed specifically for the cloud. Containers will be the logical starting point for new projects.

Another question that gets asked is how to start with Docker. The developers all say, just start. Start slowly, take small steps, show your progress and keep going back for more. But start soon so you can see what containers can do and why they are changing what's really important about cloud computing. "If you want to know what's going on in the cloud, follow the apps," said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester. "Cloud is the place to build exciting new apps. Cloud as a place for cheap servers is so 2010."

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.


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