IBM Aims to School IT on Containers and Microservices

The rise of containers specifically and microservices in general is making a lot of IT folks nervous. While many recognize these technologies and architectures can make IT fundamentally more efficient and agile, gaining hands-on expertise with them take time and effort.

To provide both developers and IT staffs with places they can physically go to gain at least some initial exposure to containers, microservices and other related cloud services, IBM has been building a series of Bluemix Garages; the latest of which IBM formally opened this week in Nice, France. The other three Bluemix Garages are in San Francisco, Toronto and London.

Angel Diaz, vice president of cloud architecture and technology, says the goal is to make it easier for IT organizations to embrace modern tools and services in a way that allows them to create applications that can invoke backend service regardless of the programming language originally used to develop them. Many of the developers and IT teams coming to the BlueMix Garage are particularly interested in using the IBM Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment to create hybrid cloud applications. In that context, a new container application might be hosted on Bluemix, but it leverages existing backend services written in, for example, Java that continue to run on premise. IBM Bluemix itself is a hosted implementation of the open source Cloud Foundry PaaS environment.

The primary reason more organizations are make use of containers, says Diaz, is that make it possible to create reusable pieces of code that can be more easily stitched together to create a composite application. What’s different about that approach compared to legacy software-oriented architectures (SOA), says Diaz,is that a microservices architecture include the mechanism for integrating containers in a way that allows applications to dynamically scale. In contrast, SOA applications never addressed the operational side of deploying composite applications, says Diaz.

From an IT operations perspective Diaz says organization are not just interested in learning about containers and microservices technologies, they are also looking for guidance on how to transform their IT cultures using, for example, agile methodologies and design thinking principles.

In some instances Bluemix Garages are located in IBM facilities or universities. But in the case of the facility France IBM has opted to partner with the European Business Innovation Center (BIC), a startup incubator. Depending on the relationship with the customer Diaz says IBM may or may not charge them for access to a Bluemix Garage facility. The hope is that once exposed to IBM Bluemix application programming interfaces (APIs) spanning 140 tools and services that more applications will find their way on to the IBM Bluemix PaaS), says Diaz.

At the moment, IBM claims more than 20,000 new developers per week who are creating more than 120,000 applications every month are to one degree or another making use of Bluemix, which includes a dedicated IBM Containers for Bluemix hosting service.

IBM has yet to decide where the next Bluemix Garage will open. But chances are wherever it is there will already be a fair amount of developers and IT operations teams looking for some guidance on how best to apply containers and microservices.

Mike Vizard

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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