So much has been made of the digital transformation, boosting organisational efficiency and innovation, but less is said of the role containers play in supporting digital acceleration.
Today, hybrid cloud adoption plays a pivotal role for organisations that can’t move their applications and data to the cloud, but are looking to modernise workloads. For streamlining operational processes and improving enterprise scalability, containers are game-changers. A vital asset, containers, one of the latest developments in the evolution of cloud computing, are increasingly thought of as fundamental for cloud computing.
The small, agile containers bring several advantages, many of the same benefits as cloud, such as deployment flexibility. Hybrid cloud environments combine different cloud infrastructures. An organisation might have its own private cloud infrastructure using on-premises virtualisation and orchestration tools. It could then link to multiple public cloud environments, such as Amazon Web Services and Azure, each of which offers unique performance profiles to suit different applications or parts of the business.
Applications would have to be configured by the IT team to run on different cloud architectures. But containers change all that by packaging applications and all their operating system dependencies in one easy package. They make it possible to move applications between cloud environments. A typical enterprise might run containers in the tens or even hundreds of thousands.
Containers also eliminate many disadvantages of rolling out monolithic applications that can become more complex and cause performance issues by breaking down the application’s functionality and enabling developers to work on each function individually.
Many organisations are considering containers as an alternative to virtual machines, which were traditionally the preferred option for large-scale enterprise workloads. For organisations operating in a hybrid cloud, containers are becoming a standardised unit that can be flexibly moved between on-premise data centres and any public cloud.
No wonder, containers are popular, as it significantly boosts application performance, minimises operational costs, and streamlines DevOps processes in hybrid cloud environments. They enable greater flexibility and scalability where developer teams need it the most. Containers give developers a self-contained package in which applications and libraries can be run whilst remaining isolated from other functions.
In fact, a survey found that 84 per cent of developers were running containers in production, while Google says it starts several billion containers each week. Containers are helping Google’s development teams move fast, deploy software efficiently, and operate at a rapid scale.
When storage is built into and run as containers, it gives IT professionals something the cloud doesn’t always provide – the ability to provision and manage their storage.
Offering a predictable environment, containers are easy to deploy at scale in hybrid cloud set-up, and cost less than traditional virtual machines.
Many organisations, both large and small, are looking at containers as a means to improve application life-cycle management through capabilities such as continuous integration and delivery. Also, certain implementations of containers conform to the principles of open source, which works well for organisations apprehensive of being locked-in to a specific vendor.
Here are some of the benefits of using containers in a hybrid cloud architecture:
Easier to shift workloads
Containers give developers the ability to create smaller, better-performing workloads for their applications, thus making it easier to shift workloads from on-premises to public and private cloud networks. Lightweight and portable, containers help DevOps teams looking to bridge the gap between their cloud ecosystems while isolating applications into secure, virtualised environments. Containers also improve storage capacity, accommodate unexpected surges in application or network traffic.
Container orchestration framework Kubernetes helps automate the deployment of containerised workloads across the entire hybrid architecture, allowing organisations to deploy and run their containers on clusters of servers at different locations and in a synchronised manner. Kubernetes also improves the scalability of containerised workloads by enabling developers to easily add additional clusters to their existing infrastructure automatically, as needed, resulting in less application downtime and better performance.
This framework enables DevOps professionals to create and administer containers across multiple cloud infrastructures using the same commands. Google, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services support it, too.
Containers provide flexibility by maintaining a similar architecture across all on-premises and cloud applications, and can customise rollouts in geographical regions.
Organisations can embed an SQL-based relational database within a Docker container, using Kubernetes or some other management feature to associate storage in a decoupled manner. The container can be easily deployed to production almost instantaneously, bringing with it the proven database schema and tested code.
Gartner predicts that more than half of companies using cloud today will move to an all-cloud infrastructure in 2021. While it’s true that moving to a public or private cloud environment doesn’t happen overnight, development teams should be prepared for the inevitable transition. So when developers deploy applications inside containers, the environment stays the same regardless of where the application resides, and eventually, as organisations move to serverless infrastructures, containers make it easy to deploy their application seamlessly.
Agility and portability
Containers are often equated to agility, but they also increase portability. By building out services and data stores within containers, organisations can easily move them all, or some of them, to the public cloud as part of its migration strategy. Since containers can be portable across environments and consistent, they can speed application delivery times and make it easier for teams to collaborate, even if those teams are working in different deployment environments. They serve as a bridge between data centres and public cloud environments. For future innovation for existing applications, containers enable agility. The healthcare industry, for one, is looking to containers to speed up innovation, agility, DevOps implementation, and cloud-like approaches to application development.
It’s not without a reason that IT teams emphasise interoperability between its mix of technologies as much as possible. As time progresses, it’s likely that almost all business applications will be run and built within containers. If you’re considering hybrid cloud strategy, containers should be on your radar because they offer high granularity and improve portability between cloud environments. There’s no doubt the two go hand-in-hand because they can drive new efficiencies into enterprise IT, and complement each other.