Business value of container technology: a subject that deserves more discussion

Many technologists love container technologies. How does this love translate into business value? 'Your boss doesn't lose sleep at night over how many lines of code it takes to automate a VM.'

Information technology expert and author Mike Kavis looked at the latest drive toward container technology and pondered the inevitable question that's going to come up: technologists have a deep appreciation -- or at least understanding -- of containers, but does it mean two cents to the business?

Photo: Joe McKendrick

At the technical level, containers are time-savers, Mike explains: "Containers can be provisioned in milliseconds, a great improvement over [virtual machines], which take a few minutes. Manual provisioning can take hours to days to even months depending on the access to physical hardware and the processes in place to request a new machine (physical or virtual)."

However, that's not going to mean squat to the business. "Your boss doesn't lose sleep at night over a VM's taking a few minutes to boot or over how many lines of code it takes to automate a VM." Mike points out. "Bosses also don't care how cool the technology is or how much you like using it."

Such concerns echo those made about service oriented architecture in recent years. The business value of containers, in fact, are similar to what SOA ultimately delivers -- increased agility, improved quality, and higher customer satisfaction. "These are the things the C-level folks are usually measured on," Mike says.

In many ways, container technology is another step toward the vision that has tantalized generation after generation of business technology providers and users -- being able to run any application, written in any language, on any platform. Java and the Java Enterprise Edition framework, along with Windows .NET, brought some measure of portability to enterprise computing environments, but were still heavily dependent on underlying OSes and application transformation. With container technology, applications just run anywhere they are moved.

Thus, as Mike points out, "a workload could be moved in flight from an on-premises environment to a cloud environment in real time and be run without any changes to code or the container."

Of course, the ultimate measure of a successful business technology is when business users are blissfully unaware of the machinations going on behind their interfaces -- while delivering insights and market advantage at the lowest cost possible.

Companies seeking the flexibility and cost structure of hybrid cloud environments will be able to make the move very quickly, with minimal disruption to ongoing operations. From a business viewpoint, this also helps avoid vendor lock-in. A business that is not satisfied with a cloud arrangement can quickly swap the providers underneath its application sets. That helps keep things open to taking advantage of the competitive marketplace of service providers. That's always a good business proposition -- and a good place to start on selling container technology to the business.