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January 15, 2018updated 27 Jul 2022 4:15am

Containers: Building adoption from chaos

The need for consolidation and best practice in the container industry.

By Ellie Burns

Container technology may still be in its relative infancy, but its ability to combine the security of traditional virtual machine isolation with speed and flexibility has already made it one of the hot topics in IT.

451 Research predicts that the market will be worth $2.7 billion by 2020, as businesses attempt to leverage the performance, cost efficiency and scalability benefits for running applications in the cloud.

Despite some teething problems that need to be overcome – such as re-architecting legacy apps, a lack of developer experience, and ensuring application security – the promise of container technology is already clear. 42% of respondents to a recent survey said their organisation is already using container technology, while nearly a quarter (23%) are currently evaluating the use of containers.

This growth in popularity has resulted in an explosion of start-ups appearing in the market that are focused on building, managing or providing container services, adding to the plethora of container-based solutions released by virtually all the major cloud providers and vendors.

While this has created an abundance of choice for customers, it’s that choice which makes it difficult for businesses to understand what is exactly the right choice for them.

A disconnect has also emerged between the interest being shown in containers and actual adoption –  with many enterprises hesitating due to security and implementation concerns – both of which are issues that the industry will be keen to solve.

Risk reduction

Despite the promise of ‘containerization’ and the potential benefits on offer, the technology is at a stage where many businesses are yet to be fully convinced.

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The financial services industry has been quick to embrace containers, but CIOs and IT managers in other sectors are still unsure if the technology is the right option for them.

It’s still relatively early days of course, so this hesitation is to be expected as any new technology comes with risks. One way of calming any fears is for the industry to establish best practice guidelines that businesses of all sizes can follow.

This is currently missing from the world of containers, primarily because early adopters are attempting to figure out what best practices should look like as they progress plans to get ahead of the competition. The result is that conventional wisdom is continually being challenged as businesses figure out exactly what does and doesn’t work.

By collaborating to provide recommendations for the creation, deployment and usage of containerised applications, vendors and customers can consolidate their experiences and help the industry to develop.

Not only will this provide businesses with confidence in their deployments, it will also encourage them to try new things and come up with innovative solutions to traditional business problems.

The need for standards

As with any emerging technology, fostering greater standardisation across the industry is key to kickstarting adoption.

Traditionally, a lack of standards has held back technology from progressing. Without having common building blocks that the whole industry must adhere to, businesses can’t be sure that the technology will work in the way they expect it to.

Once most of the industry agrees on a certain base standard, technology tends to take off. Businesses get a clearer path along which to travel and can be sure that the fundamental aspects of the technology will work in the same way, regardless of the vendor that built it.

The world of containers is no exception. By creating a standard way to build and manage container technology, all customers get access to a similar set of basic services that they can be sure will meet their performance expectations.

They can then pick solutions from specific vendors, whether that be Canonical, Google or  Microsoft r, based on their specific business needs.

Various industry bodies are already in place to help shape the future of the industry, with the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) being two of the biggest organisations seeking to tackle complex business and technology problems through open source collaboration.

The OCI, for example, was established with the aim of creating open industry standards around container formats and runtime, while the CNCF boasts 138 members after less than two years of activity – including the world’s six largest public cloud providers – and is continuing to grow rapidly.

Although progress is being made, the industry can’t afford to stand still. If the true promise of containers is to be realised, the wider adoption of common standards and best practices is essential to increasing the level of technological innovation within the sector.

This will also help the world of containers evolve from chaos to widespread adoption by guiding the container community and providing a more level playing field for vendors and customers alike.

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