In another sign that a major shift toward microservices architecture based on containers is now under way, Cisco this week announced it is acquiring ContainerX.
With this acquisition, Cisco gains access to a management framework designed from the ground up to support containers running on bare-metal servers, on top of virtual machines, or in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS)) environment.
Kip Compton, vice president of the Cloud Platform & Services Group at Cisco, says it’s already clear that a much larger percentage of containers is going to be employed on bare-metal servers as an alternative to virtual machines in the years ahead. The reason for this is that containers are a lighter-weight form of virtualization, not only more portable than a traditional virtual machine, but also consuming much less in the way of compute resources.
“We’re starting to see developers pick containers over virtual machines,” says Compton. “Developers can essentially treat the entire container as if it was another object in their application.”
Developers have also enthusiastically embraced containers as a means for building applications faster using a microservices architecture that isolates various functions in a way that makes it much simpler to continuously upgrade an application.
Today most IT organizations deploy containers on top of virtual machines because they don’t have the tools in place to manage containers directly. But Compton notes that it’s now only a matter of time before IT organizations start to acquire tools such as the platform created by ContainerX.
How Cisco intends to employ the ContainerX platform remains to be seen. Compton says Cisco acquired ContainerX as much for the skills of the company’s people as the core technology. Cisco has already been instrumental in creating container tools such as Mantl and an open source PaaS platform dubbed Shipped as part of a larger effort to help harden the OpenStack cloud platform.
Obviously, the debate over when and how containers will be deployed inside the enterprise is just now starting to get fired up. But given all the competing interests of the stakeholders involved, it’s already apparent that debate will be fierce.