August 16, 2017

Containers are generally viewed as being the primary driver of a revolution in software that is transforming how applications are delivered. But it may very well turn out that the microservices architectures employed to run containers will soon transform IT infrastructure as well.

While there has been a lot of conversation about the need for persistent forms of storage to run stateful applications, manufacturers of servers have taken note of the impact containers and microservices is likely to have across the data center.

Most notably, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been touting an HPE Docker Ready Server Program under which HPE servers come bundled with Docker Engine software supported by HPE. Bob Moore, group manager for HPE partner software, says that as IT organizations embrace containers, most of them will want to deploy container applications on-premises using modern IT infrastructure rather than legacy equipment. In fact, HPE expects that by 2018 half of all new workloads will be deployed using containers. As such, the HPE Docker Ready Server Program represents an effort to simplify that acquisition process, running on what HPE now refers to as Composable Infrastructure that can be accessed directly by developers using standard application programming interfaces (APIs).

However, there are startup vendors contending that the rise of microservices will require new approaches to managing I/O altogether. For example, Diamanti is beta testing a converged appliance designed from the ground up to meet the I/O demands of containers. As part of that effort, Diamanti is also embedding an automation framework that optimizes I/O across its appliances based on the characteristics of the workload.

At this point, most server manufacturers appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach. Robert Wambach, vice president of marketing for the Dell EMC Converged Platforms Division, formerly known as VCE, says Dell EMC will most likely one day bundle platforms offerings from sister company VMware that are optimized for containers. But Wambach says container technology is still relatively immature in terms of being able to provide a stable environment that doesn’t require a constant stream of updates to support. Once container platforms mature, however, bundling with servers supported by Dell EMC is the next logical step, says Wambach.

At the end of the day, however, there will be a lot more contention for I/O resources is only going to increase as more containers get deployed. Most IT organizations today deploy on average 25 to 50 virtual machines per server depending on its size and configuration. But in the very near future it’s probable that IT organizations will soon look to deploy hundreds of containers per server. Some of those containers will be logically aggregated. Some of them will run on top of virtual machines or in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment. Further on down the line many more containers will be deployed on bare metal servers. Regardless of the platform employed the one thing that is for certain is that the number of I/O calls being made to various types of IT infrastructure is about to exponentially increase.

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.