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As businesses embrace container adoption, opportunities arise for channel partners.
Since container technology is new, few firms have significant experience with it and need help in understanding how to deploy it.
Being a startup enabled the company to build its services on modern technology, and the potential benefits that containers offer were quite appealing, according to Aaron Brown, vice president of engineering at MadHive.
Classic applications have a centralized focus, with much of the software running on central data center servers. Blockchain has a distributed design, and much of its computing is done on dispersed servers. In building out its services, MadHive chose Google Cloud Platform services, Docker containers
As MadHive began to build its solutions, the startup ran into a few scaling problems.
"We work with extremely large
The firm analyzes a lot of video streaming information. A client, for instance, may run an advertisement during a new Amazon Prime episode and want to track how well its ad performed. The company found that Kubernetes was not able to process such requests quickly enough.
Container adoption: Uniting Kubernetes and OpenStack
MadHive represents one type of container user: a technology-driven startup without legacy systems. Yahoo Japan Corp. represents the other end of the container adoption spectrum. The $9 billion firm operates 10 data centers with 85,000 servers and rolls out new services at extremely high scale. Two years ago, the company decided to move to a new computing architecture, one based on microservices and containers.
While the change had the potential to simplify and speed up application development, the company faced challenges making the switch. Specifically, Yahoo Japan encountered a problem as it tried to connect Kubernetes and OpenStack containers. The company needed to integrate management functions of its existing OpenStack code to Kubernetes. The integration building blocks were largely missing
Jay Lymanprincipal analyst, 451 Research
The two companies commercialized their work. In April 2018, Actapio and Heptio announced Gimbal, an open source solution that unifies network traffic in hybrid Kubernetes and OpenStack clusters.
The early adopter stage
Channel partners may find growing customer interest in container technology (see " Containers: Growth potential for the channel"), but actual usage is currently limited.
"My sense is about one-quarter to one-third of businesses have started deploying containers," said Jay Lyman, principal analyst at 451 Research. Many projects are currently in
Why is container adoption so constricted? Building applications
"Docker lit the match for containers and created a lot of excitement around common developer formats and runtime modules," said Dennis Smith, a research vice president at Gartner. Prior to Docker addressing the technology, container technology was something relegated to the expertise of senior system administrators; now, application developers can deploy containers.
Containers: Growth potential for the channel
Interest in container technology is growing for good reasons. Containers offer businesses the potential to release software updates faster, improve application development and lower costs. All of these features fit well with the current emphasis on digital transformation. Increasingly, companies are trying to use technology to differentiate their services. As a result, they want to release software more frequently, and containers offer them that potential.
The term containers is an apt analogy, according to Smith. Before shipping containers were standardized, manufacturers had to determine how much space items such as 1,000 bicycles would take up on a ship and then package those items accordingly. Now, standard container sizes eliminate that work.
Software containers provide developers with similar benefits. Enterprises want to release software more rapidly, but applications are becoming larger and more complex. If organizations depended on tried-and-true methods, development times would lag as applications
Containers provide developers with more consistent development frameworks.
"Containers create an abstraction layer that defines software dependencies and interdependencies, so it becomes easier to build, debug and maintain applications,"
As a result, the market for containers is growing rapidly. 451 Research pegged worldwide revenue at $1.1 billion in 2017 and expects that number to reach $1.5 billion in 2018 and $2 billion in 2019, a 34.8% compound annual growth rate.
Holes in the technology
That said, plenty of holes remain in the technology. Containers lack mature security features, monitoring tools
Security is always a concern with new applications, and that is the case with containers. Traditional security tools were designed to run on virtual machines, but containers have a different design. "Containers introduce new processes and tooling, so the security features now available are not as robust as the tools found with virtual machines," 451's Lyman said.
Management is another area with holes. Logging and monitoring are different with containers than they were with traditional systems. The entry and exit points found with legacy systems are not as rigid, so tracking how information flows becomes more complicated. If a problem arises, companies spend a lot of time troubleshooting the source. And there's also the issue of connecting legacy containers into emerging management environments, as was the case for Yahoo Japan and its need to link Kubernetes and OpenStack.
On the plus side, some progress has been made in this area. "A year ago, there was not a clear management framework for containers," Smith noted. "Moving forward, it is apparent that Kubernetes will be one -- if not the one -- of the widely deployed tools."
Performance issues arise with various applications. "Companies are still trying to work through challenges in areas like data persistence and support for different types of database management systems," Lyman said.
Filling the gaps
Because containers have tremendous potential, a bevy of startups and established vendors have been trying to bridge the gaps, but their work is in an early stage of development. The relative newness of containers is one reason why so many shortcomings exist. "Virtual machine ecosystem development has been underway for decades. Containers gained traction only during the past few years," Smith said.
Channel partners are unable to speed up the maturation process, so how should their customers proceed? "Businesses should start ... small with simple, new applications, like mobile and web applications," Lyman recommended. "Right now, tying legacy systems to containers is tough."
Enterprises should be at least looking at
Channeling Goldilocks, partner companies must work with their customers to ensure that they embark on container adoption when the time is just right. At the moment, the time is right for large firms and greenfield operations. Eventually, containers will migrate downstream to small and medium-sized businesses.