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October 12, 2016

How the tech industry is making containers enterprise ready

Some of the biggest names in the industry are working to make containers live up to the hype.

By James Nunns

The tech industry isn’t a stranger to building astronomical hype about a technology and one of its latest golden gooses is containers.

The hype around containers is somewhat similar to that in the field of big data, in the sense that in essence the concept for the technology has been around for decades but has now become extremely popular.

Containers aren’t new but they can be a very efficient way to do DevOps, as Lars Herrmann, GM, Integrated Solutions at Red Hat told CBR: “Containerisation can be an amazingly efficient way to do DevOps, so it’s a very practical way to get into a DevOps methodology and process inside an organisation, which is highly required in a lot of organisations because of the benefits in agility to be able to release software faster, better, and deliver more value.”

The hype is understandable and the myths are starting to be debunked as tech companies continue to push the technology.

Containers are a hot topic across the tech industry, typically being top billing at conferences from the likes of Red Hat, OpenStack, EMC (now Dell EMC) and many more.

The developments aren’t restricted to the conferences though as the likes of Canonical showed recently.

Kubernetes is an open source container cluster manager originally designed by Google.

Kubernetes is an open source container cluster manager originally designed by Google.

The company is offering a core distribution of Kubernetes that provides enterprise support, across a range of public clouds and private infrastructure.

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Kubernetes, which is emerging as a standard for managing process containers, was originally the brain child of Google, although it has now handed over control to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Canonical has been working directly with Google to deliver the raw version of Kubernetes, with raw APIs that DevOps would use, along with a set of APIs that Google possesses with Google Cloud.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, told CBR: “We think other folks will build PaaS solutions, reference Kubernetes, so instead of going up the stack we are working with Google to deliver the core of Kubernetes in a way that those building PaaS can use this everywhere. It works on (Microsoft) Azure, Amazon Web Services, and private infrastructure.”

The point of doing this is, according to Shuttleworth, because the further up the stack a vendor goes the more opinionated they have to be. So with raw access then there is more flexibility with what can be done.

The move is an understandable one for Canonical as it places it in a solid position to capitalise on Kubernetes adoption.

Kubernetes is only one piece of the puzzle though because there is also Docker, which has quickly become the default name for containers.

Currently around 70% of Docker containers are Ubuntu based, of which Canonical is the guardian, so the company appears to have all bases covered.

On the Docker front, the company has been working to make it easier to run its technology on various cloud platforms.

At LinuxCon Europe at the start of October, the company  released under the Apache 2.0 license InfraKit, which is basically a set of software tools that are designed to manage containers on cloud services.

What this technology does is to overcome the various ways that cloud providers deploy servers, and let users control their systems.

The family of plugin components communicate via HTTP and are able to look at the current infrastructure and take action when the state moves away from the user specification.

Ease of use is clearly one of the top considerations for both businesses and tech companies, as is security and visibility.

At the Red Hat Summit in June, the company launched a container scanning interface to enable security partners to plug into the company’s OpenShift Container Platform. What this allows is the ability for users to see what is running inside their containers and whether the latest security updates have been applied.

This should be particularly beneficial to companies in Europe that are preparing for the introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation, and really any company that wants to know what data is where.

The myths around what containers can do are starting to be debunked.

The myths around what containers can do are starting to be debunked.

OpenStack is another that has placed a much greater focus on containers, after dismissing the notion that containers and virtualisation can’t co-exist.

The OpenStack community recently revealed the 14th version of its open source software for building its clouds and again there were moves around containers.

What’s clear is that plenty of work is being done to make containers the solution that they are promised to be.

In effect, vendors are making it enterprise ready. Yes containers have been around for decades in one form or another, but apart from Google with its Borg system, the enterprise credentials of the technology are still being built.

The container market has gained a lot of interest and with that has come confusion with numerous different methods or ideas about how to use them.

Work on creating standards, improving security, and reference architectures remain a must for one of the hottest topics in the industry.

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