Docker Extends CaaS Reach to Mainframes

A potential to fulfill how IT is managed across multiple computing platforms is now being realized via an update to Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) announced by Docker Inc.

David Messina, chief marketing officer for Docker Inc., says that for the first time IT organizations will be able to manage instances of Docker containers via a single console running on mainframes, in addition to Linux and Windows Servers running on-premises or in a cloud.

This latest release of Docker EE also enables IT organizations to customize role-based access as well as define both physical and logical boundaries for different users and teams accessing a common Docker EE environment.

Also included in this new release is an automated image promotion capability that allows IT organizations to define thresholds that must be met before moving applications into production environments and an immutable repository that prevents image tags from being overridden when an application is promoted to production environments.

Beyond further encouraging IT organizations to employ a container-as-a-service (CaaS) environment from Docker Inc. on multiple platforms, Docker EE significantly reduces the total cost of ownership for each platform by eliminating the need to hire a Docker container specialist for each one, Messina says. The latest release of Docker EE follows an IBM move to add support for container images running on a proprietary container engine hosted on a z14 mainframe running a distribution of Linux. IBM, of course, is also heavily invested in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment based on open source Cloud Foundry software.

The ability to deploy Docker images or any Linux-compatible container engine on a mainframe creates a unique moment in time to possible bridge a rift that has torn asunder the IT industry for decades. Because mainframes historically have been prohibitively expensive for many IT organizations to acquire, any number of distributed computing platforms have emerged as an alternative. While that approach lowered the total cost of acquiring a platform over time, the total cost of ownership of multiple distributed computing platforms often can exceed the cost of a mainframe.

In addition, there are many organizations that wind up deploying both a mainframe and a distributed computing system. In those environments, factions within the internal IT organization often compete with one another for the privilege of hosting various application workloads. Messina notes that tension is substantially reduced when workloads are deployed as Docker containers that can run anywhere. In general, Docker containers are viewed as a major advance in terms of both advancing hybrid cloud computing and bringing some unification to on-premises IT environments.

By lowering the management overhead associated with maintaining those environments, Messina notes more budget becomes available to drive new application development. In effect, unifying the management of mainframes, local servers and the cloud needs to be a core element of any DevOps initiative in the enterprise, he says, adding it’s already been proven that Docker EE reduces the total cost of IT by as much as 50 percent while the rate at which applications are released is increased by a factor of 13 by injecting higher levels of automation into the DevOps process.

Naturally, deciding to deploy Docker EE across multiple platforms requires a lot of political will inside an organization to overcome both incumbent existing technologies and inertia inside the IT organization. But as Docker containers continue to become more prevalent across the enterprise, it may only now be a matter of time before advances in how applications are built and deployed using containers finally force the issue.

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.

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