The core value of the use of containers lies in the fact that it enables an application-centric computing paradigm by unshackling applications from the underlying infrastructure.
Containers should now be seen as something more than a tool to make developers more agile and productive.
While this sentiment is inspiring to those of us working in this new technology, it is interesting that the industry is undergoing and falling victim to attempts to create buzz around a product/company without any new developments or announcements to back it. Such hype is one contributor to growing confusion in the industry with regard to containers. This problem stems from the fact that the vendor community has not helped customers understand the role of containers in the enterprise data center, even though everyone is trying to sell something for Docker (storage, security, management, etc.) to CIOs and CTOs.
Clearly containers have had a phenomenal impact on how the new cloud-scale applications are built and deployed. But for most IT ops folks and enterprise data center managers, the hype around containers has been a bit of a nightmare. Are containers a replacement for VMs? Is it about going back to the dark ages of bare metal? Or is it just a developer’s toy that needs “adult supervision” so as not to compromise security and governance? These are persistent questions.
The Real Value of Containers: Application-Centric IT
The core value of the use of containers lies in the fact that it enables an application-centric computing paradigm by unshackling applications from the underlying infrastructure. Docker in particular deserves kudos for turning geeky concepts such as cgroups, linux namespaces and aufs into a simple but extremely powerful toolset that allows us to de-hyphenate applications from the underlying infrastructure.
Just as hypervisors abstracted OS from underlying hardware and turned what used to be physical machines into a software package, containers extract applications from OS and everything below it. Containers therefore can herald an application-defined data center era, extending the gain of the software-defined journey all the way to what really matters — the applications!
Realizing that dream, however, requires the reach of containers to extend beyond the niche of web applications to all the classes of enterprise applications — including mission-critical databases and business applications. Containers have as much to offer to these applications, if not more, as they do to web-scale applications. For IO-intensive data applications, containers on bare metal provide a high-performance, lightweight alternative to the traditional hypervisor virtualization with potential performance gains up to 50. Containers also help consolidate multiple applications per machine, which helps maximize hardware utilization.