With the rise of container technology as a foundational element of operating systems, the dominance of the hypervisor in the age of the cloud may be coming to a close.
The first mainstream usages of containers are manifesting themselves in the Linux kernel. Each container provides a lightweight mechanism for guaranteeing system resources to an application.
Taking that capability to its next logical conclusion in the cloud, ElasticHosts, a cloud service provider, today announced Elastic Containers, a service that makes use of LXC application programming interfaces to automatically manage containers running on the Linux servers that power its cloud service.
ElasticHosts CEO Richard Davies says the availability of Elastic Containers will change the way cloud services are priced. For the first time, ElasticHosts can now offer pricing based on actual usage rather than a block of capacity that is reserved by the buyer of the service. Davies says that approach should save the organization 50 percent on its average workload because in the typical cloud service, the average customer is only using about half the capacity they actually reserve. Rather than asking customers to pay for that extra capacity, ElasticHosts can dynamically reallocate that capacity to other workloads running on the cloud service.
Davies says that as a lightweight mechanism for giving applications more granular control over systems resources, he expects containers to replace hypervisors as the dominant mechanism for managing system resources in the cloud. In the meantime, however, Davies says that ElasticHosts intends to continue to offer a hypervisor-based service using the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor alongside Elastic Containers.
In addition to being a lighter-weight approach to managing systems resources, Davies says he expects that customers will find that container performance is superior to a hypervisor because as a technology, it is closer to running on a bare metal server than the hypervisor technology found in a virtual machine.
Given the fiercely competitive nature of cloud pricing these days, it’s hard to see how containers won’t become a dominant mechanism for delivering cloud services. If a cloud service provider can substantially increase its utilization rates, it’s only a matter of time before those savings manifest themselves in lower costs.
Of course, enterprise IT organizations running Linux servers also have access to the same container technology, which means the debate between on-premise and public cloud services will continue to rage, albeit at a much lower cost than systems and services that rely on traditional hypervisors to increase overall server utilization.