In Search of a More Enterprise-Friendly Container

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    Applications are quickly surpassing infrastructure as the key driver of data productivity. Where once the differentiators between cutting-edge and also-ran were measured in processor speed, storage capacity and networking throughput, it now rests largely on orchestration, availability and scalability.

    Containers are whizzes at producing the latter, which is why developers adore them so. But the enterprise must still deal with the former as it seeks to implement container architectures across legacy infrastructure, and this is proving to be a major stumbling block to widespread deployment.

    While companies like Docker are ramping up container capabilities themselves and scale-out management stacks take hold in Google-class hyperscale operations, traditional infrastructure providers are working to bridge the divide between physical, virtual and container-level constructs. HP, for one, is working closely with Docker to incorporate containers within the Helion private cloud platform, as well as emerging PaaS products aimed at hybrid infrastructure. In addition, systems like the StormRunner deployment and testing solution and the AppPulse mobile performance monitoring tool are gaining integrated Docker support.

    At the same time, start-ups like ContainerX are looking to break into enterprise markets by making it easier for established organizations to launch and maintain fully functional container ecosystems. The goal is to make containers as ubiquitous as virtual machines by improving key functions like resiliency, multi-tenancy, elasticity and horizontal scaling. Company execs say they offer an easily deployable solution for IT while maintaining developer access via the Docker command line. By mixing standard tools like Docker Swarm and libnetwork with the company’s patented clustering and pooling technologies, the platform allows organizations to provide scalable pools of containers while preventing rogue processes or over-deployment of containers from jamming up physical resources.

    Open source leaders like Red Hat are also keenly interested in simplifying container deployment in the enterprise as the technology represents the latest opportunity to pull enterprise infrastructure off of proprietary platforms. The company recently released OpenShift 3.1 and the Atomic Enterprise Platform with the intent of extending Docker support under the Linux framework. The OpenShift PaaS platform has been outfitted with new control interfaces and integrated container support for logging, metrics, visualization and other functions, while Atomic EP provides packaging, orchestration, security and other operational tools. Organizations can deploy containers under the Atomic platform using the streamlined Atomic Host or the standard RHEL distribution.

    Meanwhile, Docker itself is working on new features aimed at satisfying broader organizational concerns regarding widespread container deployment. The new Universal Control Plane, for instance, is designed to maintain centralized control of provisioning, compliance and management across diverse cloud infrastructure while still maintaining flexibility and ease of access to users. The system supports all Windows, Linux and Solaris applications, regardless of programming language or whether deployment is on bare metal, a virtual layer or in the cloud. As well, it integrates seamlessly with LDAP, Active Directory and other services and can manage all aspects of app development from dev/test to production.

    It turns out, then, that selling containers to developers is a lot like selling candy to kids: Not only must they appeal to the final consumer but they must meet the approval of mom and dad as well. Parents want their children to be happy, of course, but not if it interferes with household harmony.

    Development within a containerized environment is undoubtedly a lot of fun, but it won’t last unless it serves the needs of the enterprise as well.

    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.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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