Containers have long-term value in the enterprise

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In an era where the preferred application platform is the cloud and DevOps is set to drive performance in today’s digital economy, industry skeptics still view containers as "over-hyped," with no long-term value in the enterprise.

However, with large investments from Amazon, Google and Microsoft, the option of containers is becoming a viable solution -- and over the next three years, predictions are that it’s set to see a huge rise in its implementation.

DevOps skills shift: the growth of containerization 

There is a seismic shift in the demand for IT Tech Talent in the market today with a new report by BMC Software highlighting that, over the next two years, IT decision makers believe that IT spending will move towards investments into workload automation, containerization and DevOps training.

And as skills are shifting, the lines between the developer and IT operation teams are blurring, meaning enterprises of all sizes are harnessing powerful technology tools that require software engineers who are not only software-coding-savvy, but platform agnostic in terms of infrastructure development.

DevOps in the enterprise has always been mostly focused around tooling and processes in the development of software, with "operations" such as support and monitoring still handled by separate teams. However, using deployment platforms such as containers brings that final piece of the puzzle back to the development teams; highlighting that the skills required in maintaining a containerized infrastructure extends beyond the traditional enterprise skills.

Developers and DevOps engineers who can embrace methodologies such as containers are more attractive to organizations as times are shifting beyond the "it works on my machine, so I’ll let the ops guys handle it." IT skills are changing and the shift in demand for DevOps IT skills can only be considered a positive move for the growth of containerization.

Speed demon: containerization vs. virtual machines

Despite industry skepticism, containerization is increasingly gaining recognition from organizations across all major industries as an exciting new method of OS virtualization -- an alternative to virtual machines. When implemented correctly, containers enable a more agile and portable software development environments to virtual machines.

Across all industries, digital transformation is on the business agenda with a keen desire and need to scale a company globally. Therefore, speed is everything and by having a scalable and adaptable platform with systems that offer flexibility when they have to change or adjust applications, is essential. And all this must be implemented affordably, with minimal disruption.

Containers allow for more control over the infrastructure, because there is no need to create a virtual machine for every instance of an application, meaning deployments are rapid and the overhead of the operating system is significantly lower. This combination is powerful as it means that when an upgrade or change is issued it will take effect almost immediately, without disruption to the general use of the portal.

Coats, an international thread manufacturer, recently announced the launch of its customer web portal on a container-based platform, marking it the challenger to industry skeptics who define container solutions as simply "hype." Speed was fundamental to Coats, so the decision to use containers came from its requirements for an adaptable, scalable and easily manageable platform that would adhere to the strict regulations of international trading.

Coats needed to find a system that would offer flexibility when they needed to change or adjust applications and it was able to find a partner to help create a system that not only challenged container-use perception at an enterprise level, but also did so in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Chris Gray, technical director of Amido, adds: "Containers give you more control over the infrastructure you are deploying. This is because you are not creating a virtual machine for every instance of an application, meaning deployments are rapid and the overhead of the operating system is significantly lower. This combination is powerful as it means that we can issue an upgrade/change that will take effect almost immediately, without disruption to the general use of the portal."

For companies where total cost of ownership (TCO) is severely monitored, this advantage of application upgrades and changes is vital, especially when, like Coats, they are committed to digitally transforming their services -- without the added costs legacy systems can bring.

The industry still views containers as hype with no long-term value in the enterprise. For Coats, however, the opposite is true. As one of the first enterprises to use Azure Container Services in a customer facing environment, it is breaking new ground in its industry with this platform.

Not a magic fix

However, despite the advantages of containers, they are not a magic fix for all. Not every organization can benefit from its use as some applications are not suitable for containerized deployment, and so the decision to containerize software must be considered carefully.

Monolithic applications, favored by traditional enterprises, are not as well suited to containerization owing to the considerably different tooling required by microservices. Containers are far better suited for a microservices environment where large projects can be broken down into a set of manageable, independent and loosely-coupled services.

For some legacy or monolithic solutions, the decision to containerize software needs to be considered carefully. Containers are valuable when monolithic applications can be split into smaller components which can be distributed across a containerized infrastructure; but this is not to say that any application will work, just that care needs to be taken to see if it is suitable for containerized deployment.

Similarly, with the shift in IT skills, those organizations reliant on monolithic architectures must ensure their in-house infrastructure is ready for containerization before any commitment can be made.

Organizations like Coats are working with agile, cloud-first consultancies like Amido, to revolutionize the perception of container solutions. Despite not being a magic fix for all, containers can no longer be dismissed so readily, and with the growing investment into containerization, coupled with the shift in demand for IT skills, enterprises of all sizes will soon seek to reap the benefits of containers.

Chris Gray, technical director, Amido.

Published under license from, a Future plc Publication. All rights reserved.

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