The enterprise is eager to implement private and hybrid clouds even though full public infrastructure is likely to be less costly, more scalable and more flexible. At the same time, organizations are looking to supplement legacy virtual resources with advanced container platforms in support of broad service- and microservice-based data environments.
Clearly, there must be a way to bring all of these technologies together so that everyone is happy.
Microsoft is looking at containers as a key opportunity to draw more enterprise workloads to its Azure cloud. The company is close to releasing the next version of Windows Servers that features Hyper-V container technology to provide a distributed environment that the enterprise can use to deploy and manage self-contained virtual environments both on-premises and in the cloud. The company is rather late to the container game, as it was with the virtual machine, but its reach into legacy data environments is considerable, and many organizations will no doubt find it appealing to suddenly gain the ability to pool container services across hybrid clouds simply by upgrading their existing server environment.
Cisco is taking much the same tack with its installed enterprise networking base. At the recent Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego, Cisco CTO Zorawar Biri Singh estimated that upwards of 30 percent of the public cloud workload will be pulled back into private or hybrid infrastructure due to the rise of containers. Leveraging Cisco systems like UCS and the emerging HyperFlex and DNA platforms, enterprises will be able to deliver high levels of scalability and flexibility within their own plants, most likely running critical apps and services on trusted infrastructure and porting only basic workloads to the public cloud.
All of this talk about broadly distributed container environments marshalled under legacy data center stacks has Docker scrambling to deliver its own cloud orchestration solution. The company recently purchased container management service Tutum and renamed it Docker Cloud with an eye toward integrating it with other aspects of the Docker management stack to enable multi-cloud support, application mobility and targeted use cases for deployment into vertical markets. As with Microsoft and Cisco, the idea is to make it easier for the enterprise to integrate Docker containers into both their legacy infrastructure and growing cloud deployments while keeping the value-added management capabilities within the Docker portfolio.
This is a tall order given the plethora of container management stacks that are hitting the market. Google is already well ahead with its Kubernetes platform, which was recently adopted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation as its container orchestration solution, although the Docker Swarm platform is gaining converts due to its cloud-agnostic architecture and improved performance in highly scaled environments. In the meantime, the Open Container Initiative is developing its own standard runtime and image specifications for Linux-based containers, while Amazon is devising a container management stack for EC3 workloads.
The market for container technology is simply too lucrative to expect much cooperation among developers or exceedingly broad interoperability among solutions. But this won’t be as big of a problem as it was with previous generations of technology because the enterprise is no longer confined to the limits of its own data center when supporting key applications.
As containers make it easier to push workloads onto the cloud, organizations will have the leeway to select infrastructure that conforms to their needs, rather than scale back expectations to within the confines of available resources.
In other words, no matter which container environment and management/orchestration stack you choose, there should be ample compatible infrastructure out there somewhere that can scale to your requirements.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.