Why Smart Container Management is Key

For anyone working in IT, the excitement around containers has been hard to miss. According to RightScale, enterprise deployments of Docker over doubled in 2016 with 29% of organizations using the software versus just 14% in 2015 [1]. Even more impressive, fully 67% of organizations surveyed are either using Docker or plan to adopt it. While many of these efforts are early stage, separate research shows that over two thirds of organizations who try Docker report that it meets or exceeds expectations [2], and the average Docker deployment quintuples in size in just nine months. Clearly, Docker is here to stay. While exciting, containers are hardly new. They’ve existed in various forms for years. Some examples include BSD jails, Solaris Zones, and more modern incarnations like Linux Containers (LXC). What makes Docker (based on LXC) interesting is that it provides the tooling necessary for users to easily package applications along with their dependencies in a format readily portable between environments. In other words, Docker has made containers practical and easy to use.

Re-thinking Application Architectures

It’s not a coincidence that Docker exploded in popularity just as application architectures were themselves changing. Driven by the global internet, cloud, and the explosion of mobile apps, application services are increasingly designed for internet scale. Cloud-native applications are comprised of multiple connected components that are resilient, horizontally scalable, and wired together via secured virtual networks. As these distributed, modular architectures have become the norm, Docker has emerged as a preferred way to package and deploy application components. As Docker has matured, the emphasis has shifted from the management of the containers themselves to the orchestration and management of complete, ready-to-run application services. For developers and QA teams, the potential for productivity gains are enormous. By being able to spin up fully-assembled dev, test and QA environments, and rapidly promote applications to production, major sources of errors, downtime and risk can be avoided. DevOps teams become more productive, and organizations can get to market faster with higher quality software. With opportunities to reduce cost and improve productivity, Docker is no longer interesting just to technologists - it’s caught the attention of the board room as well.

New Opportunities and Challenges for the Enterprise

Done right, deploying a containerized application environment can bring many benefits:

  • Improved developer and QA productivity
  • Reduced time-to-market
  • Enhanced competitiveness
  • Simplified IT operations
  • Improved application reliability
  • Reduced infrastructure costs

While Docker provides real opportunities for enterprise deployments, the devil is in the details. Docker is complex, comprised of a whole ecosystem of rapidly evolving open-source projects. The core Docker projects are not sufficient for most deployments, and organizations implementing Docker from open-source wrestle with a variety of challenges including management of virtual private networks, managing databases and object stores, securing applications and registries, and making the environment easy enough to use that it is accessible to non-specialists. They also are challenged by skills shortages and finding people knowledgeable about various aspects of Docker administration. A business guide to effective container app management - download today Compounding these challenges, orchestration technologies essential to realizing the value of Docker are also evolving quickly. There are multiple competing solutions, including Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Mesos. The same is true with private cloud management frameworks. Because Docker environments tend to grow rapidly once deployed, organizations are concerned about making a misstep, and finding themselves locked into a particular technology. In the age of rapid development and prototyping, what is a sandbox one day may be in production the next. It is important that the platform used for evaluation and prototyping has the capacity to scale into production. Organizations need to retain flexibility to deploy on bare-metal, public or private clouds, and use their choice of orchestration solutions and value-added components. For many, the challenge is not whether to deploy Docker, but how do so cost-effectively, quickly and in a way that minimizes business and operational risk so the potential of the technology can be fully realized.

Reaping the Rewards with Rancher

In a sense, the RancherĀ® container management platform is to Docker what Docker is to containers: just as Docker makes it easy to package, deploy and manage containers, Rancher software does the same for the entire application environment and Docker ecosystem. Rancher software simplifies the management of Docker environments helping organizations get to value faster, reduce risk, and avoid proprietary lock-in. Written with a technology and business audience in mind, in a recently published whitepaper, Unlocking the Value of Docker in the Enterprise, Rancher Labs explores the challenges of container management and discusses and quantifies some of the specific areas that Rancher software can provide value to the business. To learn more about Rancher, and understand why it has become the choice of leading organizations deploying Docker, download the whitepaper and learn what Rancher can do for your business.

[1] http://assets.rightscale.com/uploads/pdfs/rightscale-2016-state-of-the-cloud-report-devops-trends.pdf [2] https://www.twistlock.com/2016/09/23/state-containers-industry-reports-shed-insight/

Gord Sissons

Gord Sissons is the principal consultant at StoryTek, a consulting firm located near Toronto, Canada. Gord has more than 25 years of IT industry experience working in fields including HPC, big data, and cluster management. He is a graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, with a degree in Systems and Computer Engineering.