When Docker containers first came on the scene the general expectation was that they would emerge as a lighter weight alternative to traditional virtual machines. But as it turns out a new survey of 1,060 customers of RightScale, a provider of IT management tools delivered as a cloud service, finds that 29 percent report they are deploying containers on top of virtual machines and that another 33 percent plan to follow suit. In contrast, only 12 percent say they are running containers on bare metal servers. But another 24 percent say they plan to deploy them on bare metal servers.
In total, only 26 percent said they were using containers in production environments, and only 18 percent had 10 or more application workloads running on top of containers in those production environments. The top three dominant platforms being used to run those containers are Ubuntu (43%), CentOS (39%) and Red Hat (37%).
Decisions relating to where to deploy containers more often than not may reflect the level of experience any given IT organization has with containers. Not only are many organizations still concerned about the security implications associated with deploying containers on bare metal servers, most of them have little to no experience with container management tools. The RightScale survey, for example, finds that the most widely adopted container orchestration framework is Kubernetes at a mere seven percent.
Largely due to those two issue the path of least resistance to deploying containers is on a virtual machine. Developers still gain the benefits of a more flexible programming model. The tradeoff, of course, is additional processing overhead. Virtual machines essentially run multiple operating systems and tend to get larger over time.
As container technologies mature and IT organizations become more familiar with deploying and managing them the general expectation is that more containers will wind up running on bare metal servers. After all, hundreds of containers can run on a high end server that previously could only have supported perhaps 25 virtual machines. The desire to maximize IT infrastructure investments will in most cases eventually carry the day.
In the meantime, the RightScale survey also finds that there is a high correlation between adoption of Docker and IT automation frameworks such as Puppet and Chef. Kim Weins, vice president of marketing for RightScale, notes that while it may be tempting to think that Docker eliminates the need for these tools, in reality usage of these technologies remains fairly isolated inside most organizations. As a result, it’s too early to say to what degree Docker containers may supplant the need for IT automation frameworks to configure systems. More likely, says Weins, all these technologies will coexist in the enterprise for years to come. All told, the RightScale survey finds that 74 percent of the respondents claim to have implement DevOps practices on some level.
The Rightscale survey comes a few weeks after RightScale launched Rightscale Container Manager, which enables IT organizations to provision and manage containers, clusters, and applications as well as the infrastructure they run on from a single console.