October 21, 2017

A principal technology evangelist for Microsoft told attendees this week at the NextStep 2017 conference hosted by OutSystems that organizations that don’t adopt containers as the fundamental unit of work for building applications will find themselves going extinct in a few short years.

Miguel Caldas, principal technology evangelist at Microsoft Portugal, says no matter how developers accomplish that goal, it’s critical they gain experience with containers. Microsoft has already signaled that Docker containers will be core to every strategic initiative it makes going forward.

Caldas says it’s not only crucial developers build new applications with containers, they also need to start transforming monolithic applications into microservices. Initially, that may mean simply dropping an existing legacy application into a container, he says. After that they can start deconstructing those monolithic applications.

Organizations that make the shift to containers, says Caldas, will be fundamentally more agile than those that don’t. They not only will be able to respond much faster changing business conditions, but they also will be able to digitally transform themselves faster by moving new applications into production environments, assuming they have mature DevOps processes in place.

Arguably, Microsoft is making up for some lost ground when it comes to containers. Most usage of containers is on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud or some distribution of Linux. Microsoft is counting on its tools to help close that gap as well as tools from technology partners such as OutSystems. A provider a low-code application development platform, OutSystems this week revealed its plans to make support for containers generally available in 2018 that should make containers more accessible to a broader swath of developers.

Digital transformation projects have become a much higher priority inside organizations. But digital business strategies have not always been directly equated to employ microservices based on containers. Most of the use of containers is driven by developers aiming to make it simpler to package applications versus being set down as a strategic initiative by senior management. Microsoft is essentially starting to make the case for containers being core to all IT projects going forward.

There’s almost no aspect of IT that won’t be transformed eventually by containers and microservices. It’s not clear, however, to what degree senior IT executives comprehend the extent of that transformation. Not only are the way applications are built is changing the whole patch management process is going to be eliminated. New functionality simply will be delivered by replacing one set of containers with another. There may even come a day when most of the existing virtual machine infrastructure gets eliminated in favor of container orchestration engines running on bare-metal servers.

In the meantime, IT professionals would be well-advised to make sure containers are on the corporate IT agenda. Organizations that depend on monolithic applications will find themselves being outmaneuvered by more nimble rivals. The problem is that by the time those senior managers realize what’s occurring, it may very well turn out to be too late. After all, the shift to containers is a journey. But as is often the case with most journeys that start late there does come a time when an organization falls too far behind to ever catch up.

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.