Co-authored by Milind Kamat, CEO, Atos India and Purshottam Purswani, Chief Architect of Business technology and Innovation Center (BTIC) and Member of the Atos Scientific Community
Containerization is a form of virtualization that is able to create lightweight partitions inside the same operating system instance. Though this concept was initially introduced in the year 1979, it has recently gained momentum. Driven by a rapidly growing ecosystem, Containers can be expected to gain a foothold in, and ultimately become a fundamental part of enterprise cloud strategy.
Virtualization provides greater flexibility for managing from machine up to OS level by abstraction of the workload from the underlying physical hardware. It helps in the movement from bare metal to virtualized infrastructures which offers infrastructure as a dynamic, adaptable yet cost-effective resource.
However, this minimal level of abstraction far from sufficient to achieve the agility and speed that Digital World demands from IT. Digital World expects total application independence which can run on any infrastructure on demand.
To achieve total application independence, there is a need which requires the complete abstraction of the end to end application environment. This is what containers represent—a powerful and highly composable abstraction that enables running applications and services regardless of the platform that is hosting them.
A container consists of an entire runtime environment: an application, plus all its dependencies, libraries and other binaries, and configuration files needed to run it, bundled into one package
The latest versions of the containers in which Docker is playing a significant role, are powerful and highly decomposable abstraction within a cloud environment that enables applications and services to run completely independently of the underlying hosting platform.
Customers more advanced in their digital strategy, particularly those who already have significant exposure to the Cloud, are also keen on exploring the benefits of deploying full “environments on demand” or transforming workloads into “adaptive applications”.
Containers bring a transformative opportunity, but businesses and IT organizations can expect diverse degrees of impact, depending on the adoption profile chosen. Nevertheless, the following economic and environmental implications can be anticipated:
Workload Portability - Containers enable multi-sourcing capabilities. It enables Portable Workloads (from Private to Public Cloud and vice-versa). This helps in Price/Value competition/elasticity, improved Demand Management (no more capacity silos).
Configure as a new Virtual Appliance - Containers as the new “virtual appliance” reduce the number of Virtual Gold images. It helps in improved Cost Effectiveness, Cost Reduction (Storage, backup, operations, etc.)
Infrastructure Utilization - Improve resource utilization of the infrastructure used for provisioning the cloud services. Containerization represents more than just technology underpinning use cases. It is a catalyst for Programmable Infrastructure. It’s true enabler for DevOps that coexists with the current IT divide and empowers business users of applications, data, and the underlying infrastructure.
However, the business benefits of Containers in the Cloud go beyond technology into IT Operations as a whole.
The main business benefit is a superior rate of consolidation, compared to the fat hypervisor-based virtualization; you can run from twice to four-times server instances on the same hardware. The only advantage of hypervisors is the ability to use different operating systems or kernels on the same server, but except for testing and qualification use cases, it’s not so frequent in production.
This will provide huge competitive advantage for a service provider, allowing reduction of the Hosting Server Capex to up to 75 % for the same application density.
The portability of workloads among different service providers brings true “market based” multi-sourcing with the benefits of price/value competition & elasticity and elimination of vendor lock-in.
Containers play a key role in addressing the demand for “Speed of change”. Containers enable clients to move from deployment in weeks to minutes, with the ability to deliver enhancements and/or new features within hours and if necessary, the ability to roll back. Efficiency increases to great extent where a release typical takes days, now will be deployed in minutes with containerization which helps in Continuous Integration/Deployment, Increased Operational Responsiveness to Business Demands.
The future state
Containers face similar headwinds as previously experienced with server virtualization. While leading B2C cloud players have already embraced Cloud Native Applications and Technologies, the Enterprises are now beginning to accept them to deliver its services. The wave of adoption of “Containerization in Cloud” remains a future state for most organizations.
However, with Business Digitalization challenges and with increasing access to maturing technologies, the time to start implementing such a strategy is now. Similarly future Internet of Things deployments would also look at augmenting the efficiency of cloud by using Containerisation at the Edge.
With all the technology and operational advantages that containerization offers, the ecosystem is filling in the current functional gaps and providing insight “Innovation and Evolutions” expected over the next 5-10 years or so.