December 16, 2017

Working in the world of DevOps, it’s exciting to see the number of tools for developers grow with the talent of the thriving developer community. But lately, these new technology tools have put developers and senior IT executives on disparate ends of the IT spectrum.

Container software, for example, has been embraced by developers at the grassroots level, while high-level leaders are still evaluating its place in companywide IT infrastructure.

Instead of becoming a barrier, however, I believe these differing points of view will lead to a positive discussion and solid foundation for containers’ beginnings in the world of DevOps. Bottom-up adoption shows IT leaders the benefits of this new tool in action—and its success will secure containers’ place in the future of DevOps and enterprise IT overall.

A Closer Look at the Data

A recent study shows that 89 percent of surveyed developers are already using, or plan to use, container software to work more efficiently. But another survey shows that less than half of Fortune 500 CIOs are adopting containers. Can they both be true?

In theory, yes. While less than half of these Fortune 500 CIOs are leading the charge to formalize container usage in their own companies, we can reasonably assume that almost all of them are, perhaps unknowingly, already using containers, put in place by container-loving developers.

On their own, statistics like these suggest that a ground-up approach to container implementation could cause problems in security, workflow or IT infrastructure. But a look at the history of virtualization and cloud adoption proves that this is a natural evolution, and that it’s only a matter of time before the industry shifts to embrace more agile tools like containers.

Containers are Following the Path Laid by Virtualization

Fifteen years ago if you asked a senior IT leader what he or she knew about virtualization, you might have received a response like, “I’ve heard about it, but I don’t have plans to use it. It’s not secure, and it’s not scalable enough for my database workload.”

Developers and operators, however, readily embraced these tools, and helped build functionalities that addressed IT executives’ concerns around moving to virtualization (and, later, the cloud).

For example, virtualization initially had a performance trade-off relative to running the same workload on bare metal, described by the phrase “virtualization tax.” However, the operational advantages of virtualization were so overwhelming that early adopters found it worth the trade-off, while the ecosystem worked diligently to optimize performance.

Over the next several years advances in hardware, hypervisors and operating systems decreased the impact of that trade-off—to the point where most people today would give you a strange look if you said you planned to deploy a new app on a bare-metal server.

Cloud adoption followed a similar pattern a few years later. Naysayers said that the cloud wasn’t secure, wasn’t scalable or couldn’t provide high performance. But like virtualization, the advantages of the new technology were so strong that early adopters were willing to make sacrifices to make it work. And again like virtualization, providers invested heavily in security, built massive data centers and provided hardware bigger than many organizations ever bought for onsite data centers. And again, if today you told someone you were going to deploy and run your own email environment onsite, most professionals would wonder why.

Similar to the trajectory mapped out by virtualization and cloud adoption, the day is coming where IT experts will agree it would be foolish to deploy an application outside of containers. It’s just going to take time to roll out functions that satisfy all parties along the IT spectrum.

The Future of Containers

Because no organization can shift their stack to a new system overnight, it will take persistence, patience and time to see developers and IT executives show equal support for container usage.

Fortunately, containers have a favorable journey ahead, thanks to the pioneering paths forged by virtualization and cloud adoption. By setting the standard for “moving to the cloud” and “embracing digital transformation,” these trends have carved the way for a smooth transition to increased container usage, pointing to an exciting new age for an agile IT infrastructure.

About the Author / John Morello

John Morello is the Chief Technology Officer at Twistlock. As CTO, John leads the work with strategic customers and partners and drives the product roadmap. Prior to Twistlock, John was the CISO of Albemarle, a Fortune 500 global chemical company. Before that, John spent 14 years at Microsoft, in both Microsoft Consulting Services and product teams. He ran feature teams that shipped security technologies in Windows, Azure, and Office 365 and served as the Lead Architect of the hybrid cloud consulting team for the Americas. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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