All too often, discussions surrounding the topic of application containers dives far too deep into the technical weeds. While many IT decision makers are generally aware of what "technical" benefits can be made, they are left scratching their heads as to the true "business" benefits.
That’s a shame because in order for containers to truly take off in 2017, the motivation to move to a container architecture needs to come from the top. For this to happen, it must make sense for the business. In today's article, we're going to cut through the technical aspects of containers to point out five business cases that can be made for containers.
1. Smaller compute footprint means lower overall costs. Containers can significantly reduce the number of virtual machines you spin up and manage. By eliminating the need to run a virtual machine per application -- which consumes huge chunks of storage and memory – you reduce your overall compute footprint. That reduction in wasteful, duplicated operating systems and resources can translate into tremendous cost savings. This is true not only inside private data centers, which reduce the overall CAPEX by reducing the amount of hardware required, but also in cloud service costs as containers consume far fewer resources.
2. Lower licensing costs. Cloud savings can not only be found in the reduction of server hardware and/or cloud services. Fewer virtual machines and fewer operating systems running in your environment mean that you significantly reduce licensing requirements as well. Depending on how your licensing is structured, there is the potential for even more cost savings on the licensing side of the IT house.
3. Portability = flexibility. One commonly pointed out drawback of cloud computing revolves around the concern that once you move into a cloud service provider, it becomes difficult to move out. Yet, with containers, you are no longer required to move bulky VM's across slow WAN links when exiting a service provider. Instead, containers make it far easier to move in and out of clouds thanks to their diminutive size. Ultimately, this helps negate the cloud lock-in concern that still haunts some IT decision makers.
4. Faster deployments with lowered risk. In many IT departments with traditional data center architectures, the power struggle between the application development team and infrastructure administrators can be immense. Developers are often required to build and test applications on servers that are vastly different from what is running in production. When the dev team is ready to move new applications into the production environment, they are often met with resistance from the server administrators who are concerned about making any OS-level changes to accommodate new apps. Ultimately, a process bottleneck forms between the two teams. Containers can ease that bottleneck and the tension between groups by allowing IT to maintain control of the server-side configurations while the development teams simply package whatever adds/changes they need into a neat little bundle. Those container bundles can then be quickly moved into production, tested, and if problems occur, removed without any major headaches or permanent changes to the operating system.
5. Container management and automation is getting better and cheaper every day. Per a recently released study from 451 Research, the application container market will reach $2.7 billion by 2020. And a big part of that growth is going to be in the areas of container management and automation “where there is intense competition, innovation and disruption”. For businesses, what that means is this is truly a buyers’ market where competition is dramatically driving down costs, while the features and benefits of the products are on the uptick. So, if you’re considering using containers on a large scale, the tools to help get you manage them are plentiful and cheap.
Conclusion: 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for containers. Whether you are interested in simply testing the waters – or jumping in with both feet -- the business benefits we’ve presented in this article are widely appealing. In terms of cost savings, time savings and overall improvements within the IT department, expect containers to shake up the industry the same way server virtualization did over a decade ago.