Far too frequently, when a set of innovative technologies emerges organizations tend to approach them in the same context as the legacy technologies they already employ. But as is often the case it’s only a matter of time before they discover just how profound a change that emerging technology actually represents. Such is the case with containers.
The best example of this at the moment may be the Sandstorm open source operating system project based on containers. Available for download or on an Oasis service, Sandstorm essentially replaces the way applications were previously constructed with a metaphor that allow either a developer or an end user to link containers together to create multiple types of documents.
To make it simpler for organizations to digest that concept Sandstorm also created Sandstorm for Work, a set of pre-packaged containers that end users can invoke to create documents that they can personalize to create their own workflow. Now in beta, Sandstorm this week announced it is now making Sandstrom for Work available for an unlimited trial period for organizations with less than 10 users.
SandstormCEO Kenton Varda says the ultimate goal is to foster adoption of Sandstorm by showing how individual data elements can be granularly invoked as a container. Instead of thinking in terms of deploying applications on top of a container, Varda says Sandstorm for Work presents a user interface through which they can manipulate documents. To make that palatable to traditional IT organizations, Sandstorm for Work also includes support for LDAP, including Active Directory, and SAML to provide a single sign-on alternative.
Varda says Sandstorm traces its lineage back to Google App Engine, which has long made use of containers to link documents. Now Sandstorm wants to more broadly apply those concepts to any set of documents an organization cares to construct. That means instead of having to rely on professional developers to create every application, so-called citizen developers that have deep knowledge of a process will be able to construct their own custom workflow flows and documents, including compound ones made up of multiple data types, as part of what Varda refers to as a personal cloud. The implications that might have on both the way people work could be significant. In addition, the current shortage of professional programmers could even one day soon become a non-issue.
It’s far too early to say whether Sandstorm will succeed as an open source project. But it does illustrate how containers have the potential to dramatically change the end user experience. In all probability it won’t be long before independent software vendors (ISVs) starting making use of these concepts to tear down many of the walls that existing application development methodologies impose on them. As such, Varda says containers are about a lot more than simply providing an alternative to traditional virtual machines.
Of course, that may take while to manifest itself in a manner that end users can readily consume. But the one thing that is for certain is that the relationship between operating systems, applications and documents may soon never be the same.