May 26, 2017

“Digital business transformation” is one of those catch phrases that gets tossed around a lot, but what the term means often is left open to interpretation. The clear one thing is that organizations that do embrace the concept want it to occur much faster than most IT organizations have been able to historically deliver. Because of that issue, a new report from Red Hat and Bain & Company suggests that more organizations are starting to discover containers as means to accelerate digital business transformation projects.

The survey of 450 IT executives finds that adopters of containers are realizing a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in development times alongside gains in IT infrastructure flexibility and reduced IT infrastructure costs ranging anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent.

Lars Herrmann, general manager for the Integrated Solutions Business Unit at Red Hat, says it’s clear the portability and flexibility enabled by all forms of Linux containers will continue to play a much bigger role in the development and deployment of next-generation applications that are becoming the foundation of any digital business. Less clear is the degree to which businesses are mentally equating the need to become a digital business with the adoption of containers. In many cases, a new digital business application is a byproduct of embracing containers. Without the existence of containers in the first place, it probably would have been unfeasible to build, deploy and maintain the new digital business application in first place.

Herrmann notes container adoption also is taking on a life of its own, largely because of competitive pressure. Once one organization starts to outpace a rival in terms of rolling out new application functionality, it doesn’t take too long for rival organizations to figure out how containers were employed to transform the overall DevOps process. Of course, the degree of DevOps transformation will vary by organization. Some IT organizations have opted to make developers responsible for every microservice they develop end to end. Other organizations simply want developers and IT operations staff to work together in more of a hand-in-glove fashion. What is clear is containers make it a lot easier for organizations to custom-tailor DevOps processes to meet their own unique requirements as they best see fit.

In fact, Herrmannn notes organizations that don’t start to aggressively embrace containers are in danger of being left behind. As rivals gain more proficiency with containers, the easier it becomes for them to add new application functionality that engages their customers. In contrast, other organizations that continue to rely on patching code versus simply replacing container modules will find meeting digital business expectations challenging.

Ultimately, microservices enabled by containers are part of much larger agile development continuum. Taken to its most logical conclusion, it was only a matter of time before agile development methodologies would require monolithic applications to give way in favor more modular approaches to updating application components. The challenge now is waiting for the IT culture inside most IT organizations to finally catch up with that new reality.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.