Digital Transformation deserves more than monolithic IT – it’s the time of containerisation

In an era where the preferred application platform is the cloud and DevOps is set to drive performance in today’s digital economy, industry sceptics still view containers as “over-hyped”, with no long-term value in the enterprise. However, with large investments from Amazon, Google and Microsoft, the option of containers is becoming a viable solution - and over the next three years, predictions are that it’s set to see a huge rise in its implementation.   

DevOps Skills Shift: The Growth of Containerisation   

There is a seismic shift in the demand for IT Tech Talent in the market today with a new report by BMC Software highlighting that, over the next two years, IT decision makers believe that IT spending will move towards investments into workload automation, containerisation and DevOps training.   

And as skills are shifting, the lines between the developer and IT operation teams are blurring, meaning enterprises of all sizes are harnessing powerful technology tools that require software engineers who are not only software-coding-savvy, but platform agnostic in terms of infrastructure development.   

DevOps in the enterprise has always been mostly focused around tooling and processes in the development of software, with “operations” such as support and monitoring still handled by separate teams. However, utilising deployment platforms such as containers brings that final piece of the puzzle back to the development teams; highlighting that the skills required in maintaining a containerised infrastructure extends beyond the traditional enterprise skills.

Developers and DevOps engineers who can embrace methodologies such as containers are more attractive to organisations as times are shifting beyond the “it works on my machine, so I’ll let the ops guys handle it.”  IT skills are changing and the shift in demand for DevOps IT skills can only be considered a positive move for the growth of containerisation.   

Speed Demon - Containerisation vs. Virtual Machines 

Despite industry scepticism, containerisation is increasingly gaining recognition from organisations across all major industries as an exciting new method of OS virtualisation - an alternative to virtual machines. When implemented correctly, containers enable a more agile and portable software development environments to virtual machines. 

Across all industries, digital transformation is on the business agenda with a keen desire and need to scale a company globally. Therefore, speed is everything and by having a scalable and adaptable platform with systems that offer flexibility when they have to change or adjust applications, is essential. And all this must be implemented affordably, with minimal disruption. Containers allow for more control over the infrastructure, because there is no need to create a Virtual Machine for every instance of an application, meaning deployments are rapid and the overhead of the operating system is significantly lower. This combination is powerful as it means that when an upgrade or change is issued it will take effect almost immediately, without disruption to the general use of the portal. 

Coats, an international thread manufacturer, recently announced the launch of its customer web portal on a container-based platform, marking them the challenger to industry sceptics who define container solutions as simply ‘hype’. Speed was fundamental to them, so the decision to use containers came from Coats’ requirements for an adaptable, scalable and easily manageable platform that would adhere to the strict regulations of international trading. They needed to find a system that would offer flexibility when they needed to change or adjust applications and they were able to find a partner to help create a system that not only challenged container-use perception at an enterprise level, but also did so in a timely and cost-effective manner.   

Chris Gray, Technical Director of Amido, adds: ‘Containers give you more control over the infrastructure you are deploying. This is because you are not creating a Virtual Machine for every instance of an application, meaning deployments are rapid and the overhead of the operating system is significantly lower. This combination is powerful as it means that we can issue an upgrade/change that will take effect almost immediately, without disruption to the general use of the portal.’  

For companies where Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is severely monitored, this advantage of application upgrades and changes is vital, especially when, like Coats, they are committed to digitally transforming their services - without the added costs legacy systems can bring.   

The industry still views containers as hype with no long-term value in the enterprise. For Coats, however, the opposite is true. As one of the first enterprises to use Azure Container Services in a customer facing environment, they are breaking new ground in their industry with this platform. 

Not a magic fix 

However, despite the advantages of containers, they are not a magic fix for all. Not every organisation can benefit from its use as some applications are not suitable for containerised deployment, and so the decision to containerise software must be considered carefully. 

Monolithic applications, favoured by traditional enterprises, are not as well suited to containerisation owing to the considerably different tooling required by Microservices. Containers are far better suited for a microservices environment where large projects can be broken down into a set of manageable, independent and loosely-coupled services.   

For some legacy or monolithic solutions, the decision to containerise software needs to be considered carefully. Containers are valuable when monolithic applications can be split into smaller components which can be distributed across a containerised infrastructure; but this is not to say that any application will work, just that care needs to be taken to see if it is suitable for containerised deployment. Similarly, with the shift in IT skills, those organisations reliant on monolithic architectures must ensure their in-house infrastructure is ready for containerisation before any commitment can be made. 

Organisations like Coats are working with agile, cloud-first consultancies like Amido, to revolutionise the perception of container solutions. Despite not being a magic fix for all, containers can no longer be dismissed so readily, and with the growing investment into containerisation, coupled with the shift in demand for IT skills, enterprises of all sizes will soon seek to reap the benefits of containers. 

Chris Gray, Technical Director, Amido

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