Why All Containers Won’t Be Successful

Containers have been a hot topic in 2016—and while they’re garnering interest and momentum, we’re very early on in terms of market maturity.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited! Over the past year, containers as a technology have gained a lot of traction, with the three main players—Docker, Mesosphere and Kubernetes—finding themselves on equal footing as far as adoption and offerings. This is very different from the last couple of years, when these platforms were on uneven footing as far as equivalent offerings, and it’s a great evolution because it means freedom of choice, flexibility and the opportunity to experiment for enterprise users.

However, this is a single point in time in the market, and I predict the landscape will look very different a year from now. By this time next year, we’ll find that one container technology has risen to the top either by way of innovation, functionality, funding, adoption or some combination thereof.

We’ve already seen some very interesting market moves this year, with Mesosphere taking funding and announcing partnerships with HPE and Microsoft, and the Apprenda acquisition of Kismatic, the company behind Kubernetes. Docker also took on a Series D round of funding last spring at $1Billion+ valuation. All of these investments signal competition in the space, and we’ll see this heat up exponentially in the coming months—but with the current state of VC, it’s a crapshoot as to whether revenue will come out of these investments and what that means for container evolution.

So why is that, if container technology is so desirable?

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It’s the fact that software is hard to manage, and there’s currently not one single complete product or solution in a platform. Software is only as good as the user’s ability to consume it, and if users are cobbling together software to make a single solution, odds are good that they’re spending human and monetary assets in a way that compromises efficiency rather than promotes it. With so many facets to enterprise IT, the majority of companies currently don’t have the ability to consume software-only products.

And this is the hole in the container market.

A hole, yes, but also an opportunity to build a cohesive solution that addresses the barriers to adoption: persistence, support for apps, ease of use and lock-in for existing proprietary hardware.

For developers, containers make deployments and the packaging of apps and software easier because they make applications and associated dependencies more portable—the deployment process is absolutely critical. Containers also give developers granularity and control over what gets deployed and, on the development side,  offer the ability to build more simplistic infrastructure to support these apps—and a simpler infrastructure is more scalable and efficient to operate.

But the toolsets are still in early stages of development, and users have to be good at operationalizing infrastructures in general. They have to catch problems, respond quickly, understand that software will break and generally be on their toes. The next technical step is to operationalize the software and environment, and that’s a whole set of technical challenges that people aren’t ready for–yet.

Together, the open source community will build solutions to make containers easily consumable, and skills and tools will also make that shift so that the evolution of IT teams is more empowered to successfully run software-only approaches to tech workloads.

EMC took a swing at this today—more here—but there’s more work to be done by the community at large.

By this time next year, the container market will be a whole new ballgame, with one clear leader and higher adoption as the technology evolves. We’re in for an interesting ride!

About the Author: Josh Bernstein

Josh is an open source advocate and lifelong technologist. As the VP of Technology for Dell, he’s at the helm of {code}, the open source arm of the organization focused on advancing emerging technologies to support software-based infrastructures. Prior to Dell, Josh ran the Siri Deployment and Infrastructure Architecture team at Apple and took Siri from launch to tens of thousands of servers, deployed in more than a dozen locations worldwide, in under 5 years.