You've heard the term 'containers' but you might not know what it means. While the level of recognition for containers in smaller businesses might be low, the potential impact of containers across all organisations is huge.
Forrester Research suggested two years ago that 31 percent of enterprise IT organisations had deployed containers as part of their cloud operations. Recent research suggests that deployment figure could now be fast-approaching 50 percent.
So, why are firms so interested in containers? From consistency to agility, we present five key benefits from using containers to make the most of the cloud - and we think about how smaller firms might be able to take advantage of these plus points.
Containers decouple applications from the environment in which they run. This approach to software development means containerised apps can be deployed quickly and effectively across any environment, whether that's in the cloud, in the data center or somewhere else entirely, such as an individual device.
This isolationism provides other benefits in terms of consistency, too. Containers can include software dependencies, such as runtimes and libraries. Such containerisation means developers can be sure the final application will run in a consistent manner regardless of whether the application is deployed inside or outside the cloud.
The decoupled and lightweight approach of containers means IT professionals can focus solely on their key day-to-day concerns. Meanwhile, developers can concentrate on application logic and dependencies, operations specialists can deal with software deployment and management issues, without having to worry about application versions and configurations.
The consistent approach that underlies containerised development means IT professionals can spend less time debugging and more time innovating when it comes to new functions. The bonus for your business is productivity. Talented IT staff - that you either employ in-house or draw on externally - can spend less time testing and more time creating.
If something works well, it's worth repeating. Yet in a traditional approach to development, with its series of dependencies to the host environment, it can be difficult for IT professionals to move an application to a new platform or operating system. Containers provide a different approach, with platform independence providing portability.
Containers are a self-contained package that is abstracted away the operating system, machine, and the code. The unit that remains is a much smaller package than exists in traditional development approaches. This unit can be moved to other operating systems and platforms easily, creating a boost in terms of agility, flexibility and productivity.
Containers are self-contained and do not interact with each other. That means if your business is running a series of containers on the same resources, and one container crashes, your others will keep running without interruption. That's a benefit in terms of security, too - if one container is hacked, the impact should be - as the name suggests - contained.
Lightweight containers can be started and stopped in a matter of seconds. Problematic containers can be brought to a halt without affecting other enterprise systems. Updates, meanwhile, can also be made quickly, meaning features can be added easily and errant bugs - that could lead to potential security issues - are minimised.
Executing application processes in isolation from the host operating systems makes it easier for IT professionals to manage operations and updates. For smaller firms with limited technology resources, working with the right trusted partner will mean the organisation can benefit from containerisation quickly and effectively.
Look for a partner that provides automated container orchestration, which involves the management of machines and services on behalf of your business. Containers might sound complicated, but an external partner can make it easy to take advantage of the benefits. Rather than dedicating time and stress to resource allocation, your containerised partner - and their approach to technology - should ensure services are scaled up or down automatically.
Containers give small firms a new sense of agility
The old, laborious mode of application development is on the way out. Researcher IDC says successful firms in the digital economy will operate like digital-native enterprises, re-architecting their operations as demands and requirements change. Smaller firms can use containerisation to adopt a similarly flexible approach, providing a decoupled and secure way to scale up services quickly. A careful combination of the cloud and containers gives smaller firms the opportunity to embrace flexibility and to start using IT in a much more agile fashion.