March 24, 2017

The analysts at 451 Research forecast that the container market will soon explode, increasing in value to $2.7 billion by 2020 from $762 million last year. Adoption of container technologies is growing faster by the day, yet the number of organizations running containers in production is still relatively low. This is especially true for enterprises, and the irony is that container technologies hold great potential for this sector in particular.

Conceptually, container technologies seem like a no-brainer. So, what’s the holdup? Let’s examine a few of the reasons for this and how we, as an industry, can help enterprises overcome these obstacles.

People aren’t interested in your shiny technology

There is a multitude of tools, components, technologies and frameworks to choose from in the container market. All this is interesting for people who build highly customized and optimized systems from scratch. However, the majority of the enterprises don’t want to get lost in this rabbit hole; rather, they want a complete product with all the bells and whistles already built in. In fact, very few enterprises care about the underlying technology or components as long the product works as advertised out of the box.

DevOps includes both Dev and Ops

For all the talk about moving to the cloud, not all enterprises have done it. Furthermore, most of them don’t have autonomous superhuman DevOps teams who do it all. Unfortunately, most of the technology and tools available out there today are targeted to those superhumans. By understanding the reality we live in, we will understand the most pressing needs that we can address:

Dev-driven needs

Developers are looking for a solution to easily deploy their software (that might already be packaged as containers for dev/test purposes) into production with fast product development cycles. They appreciate ease of use, silky smooth workflows and the potential to integrate the deployment process as part of their existing CI/CD pipelines. One must realize there are also PaaS solutions (using containers internally) that may cover some of the requirements without needing to introduce new tools for dev teams.

Ops-driven needs

Operations is looking for containers as a solution to improve resource utilization or provide a unified platform for third-party software suppliers. They appreciate a solution that is easy to set up and doesn’t require a dedicated team to maintain. One must realize containers are often only part of the solution.

The need for culture shift

One of the biggest barriers to entry concerning container technology is culture. Across all facets of the industry, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a new cultural paradigm is needed for container adoption to accelerate. There’s a certain fundamental truth: Most people resist change. It isn’t just a matter of technological change, but rather a psychological one.

What tech-savvy eggheads love doesn’t always translate to the enterprise sector. Some folks aren’t as apt to go with a new technology solely based on hype or the coolness factor.

Even though some DevOps teams are beginning to use containers and slowly introduce the technology into their production environments, the bulk of organizations aren’t sure where to begin. Containers need to be demystified for enterprises to understand the technology’s importance. DevOps teams need to come to the table equipped with real information about the measurable benefits of containers.

Container-cloud confusion

Container technologies have arrived on scene at the same time that many enterprises continue to struggle with moving to the cloud. Containers often are associated with the cloud-based applications they support, but many organizations haven’t yet made the switch from on-premises to cloud infrastructure. A delay in moving to the cloud has caused delays in container technologies in many cases. The reality, however, is that these two issues aren’t inextricably linked. Adopting container technology doesn’t have to be dependent on moving from on-premises to cloud infrastructure. There are container platforms out there that allow for deployment on-prem as well as on any cloud, hybrid or public.

Containers are still under construction

As with any emerging technology, organizations are concerned about adopting containers before they are ready. While many vendors claim the technology is ready for production use, there is still heavy development activity happening around various container engines, including improving security and developing totally new storage systems. It’s impossible to find a “perfect” solution today, but the benefits of containers clearly outweigh the shortcomings for most enterprises.

Interoperability and legacy projects

For the types of projects that start from scratch, from the ground up, container technology is perfect. However, those kinds of projects don’t start every day in the enterprise world. In these situations, the more common project is one built on legacy, with a longer history. Moving these existing projects to container technology can require too many resources—be it time, money or manpower—to make it economical for enterprises. In other words, for optimal success, containers need to play nice with existing hardware and software.

The right-sized container platform can be hard to find

Many IT professionals do understand the benefits of adopting container platforms but struggle with finding the precise platform for their needs. Inadequate tools and other challenges combine to hamper purchasing decisions.

Container vendors typically focus on massive-scale setups and won’t work for smaller-scale setups. At the same time, companies need to look for a solution that can be scaled up when needed. In today’s business environment, companies must be able to scale container technology easily and quickly, without having to alter other procedures.

However, because the container market is a fast-growing space, new and different options are being created all the time. Innovation is happening at breakneck speed, with better options being built constantly.

Adjusting to the Future

Container technology offers benefits to enterprises, but there are legitimate issues as well. As more companies adopt containers, now is the time for vendors to hear their complaints and adjust their offerings as necessary to meet real needs. Getting educated and helping to educate the market will help speed the adoption of containers so that more organizations can more quickly benefit from this technology.

About the Author / Miska Kaipainen

Miska Kaipiainen is the CEO and founder of Kontena, the creator of the Kontena open source, developer-friendly container platform that was recognized by Black Duck as one of the Top 10 Open Source Rookies of the Year 2015. A serial entrepreneur and business developer, he has extensive experience in managing high-tech businesses in both the hardware and software sectors. Connect with him on Twitter.

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