November 23, 2017

Docker Inc. at the DockerCon Europe 2017 conference extended its alliance with IBM as part of an effort to entice more IT organizations to lift and shift existing legacy applications into the cloud using Docker containers.

Meanwhile, IBM announced that its middleware software used to run legacy applications now will be available as containers on the Docker Store. Dan Berg, a distinguished IBM engineer for the IBM Cloud Platform, says the Liberty Edition of Websphere had been available in a container for some time. But IBM only recently made its DB2 database and MQ Series messaging software available as a container.

IBM envisions IT organizations using those instances of its middleware as a complement to the Docker Enterprise Edition (EE), a container-as-a-service (CaaS) environment that IBM is making available as a service on the IBM Cloud. IBM already makes a container service available based on the Kubernertes container orchestration engine. The Docker EE service will be based on the Docker Swarm container engine.

Despite Docker Inc.’s decision to support Docker EE on Kubernetes this week, Berg says IBM has no plans to support Docker EE on Kubernetes.

Berg notes that today the IBM container service runs on virtual machines, but IBM plans to make available a bare-metal version of the service for applications that require higher levels of performance using a more expensive version of the service.

IBM also revealed that IBM Watson cognitive computing services run as a series of Docker containers on the IBM Kubernetes services, which should make it easier for developers building container applications to invoke machine and deep learning algorithms as a microservice.

Docker CEO Steve Singh stressed this week at DockerCon Europe that IT organizations should not be under the impression that they need to recode or refactor applications to deploy them in a public cloud. Legacy applications can be loaded in a Docker container to enable them to be redeployed on any cloud that support Docker containers.

To facilitate that effort, Docker Inc. developed a Modernize Traditional Application (MTA) program through which it will containerize legacy Java or Microsoft .Net applications that meet specific criteria in five days. IBM is the second cloud service provider to join the Docker MTA program after Microsoft. Other members of the program include Avanade, Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), all of which have developed consulting practices around the Docker EE platform.

In the future, Docker Inc. plans to add support for migrating applications written in C/C++ and COBOL, as well as packaged applications. Docker Inc. is also developing additional discovery and dependency mapping tools to simplify moving applications to the cloud.

Singh says when it comes to IT innovation, the major issue holding back organizations is that anywhere from 70 percent to 80 percent of the IT budget is allocated to maintaining legacy applications. Moving those applications into the cloud is major step toward reducing those costs. From there IT organizations can opt to either extend the functionality of those applications using microservices based on Docker containers or begin the process of re-engineering those monolithic applications to become a series of microservices. That approach should ultimately serve to make the IT organization more agile.

For example, Docker Inc. noted that customers such as MetLife have about to reduce their total IT costs by 66 percent by containerizing legacy applications. Because of that shift, MetLife has reduced the number of virtual machine it needs to manage by 70 percent, while reducing the number of processor cores by 67 percent. Overall CPU utilization at MetLife has increased by a factor of 10.

Of course, moving a legacy application into the cloud using containers is only the beginning. Organizations that make that shift will discover that the entire application lifecycle process needs to change as well. In fact, using a container to lift an enterprise application into the cloud is relatively trivial. Getting the rest of the organization to change the way those applications are managed and updated, on the other hand, is major exercise in IT operational transformation.

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.