Just How Shiny Is That New Shiny Object?

Adoption trends for containers and microservices

It is clear containers are garnering a lot of attention and are evolving at an incredibly rapid pace. At Dell EMC, we were curious to understand how and where containers are actually being used, why they are being used, for what types of workloads, and what challenges have been encountered.

Dell EMC, Intel and Red Hat commissioned  Forrester Consulting to conduct a study surveying IT professionals who are actively working with containers and microservices technologies to document adoption and usage trends and key challenges. We captured online survey responses from 195 senior manager-level and above IT decision-makers at organizations in the US, Canada, UK, and Germany in early 2017.

In this post we highlight a few of the surprising findings from the survey research. The survey study available here provides all of the results.

All applications are benefiting from container deployments

There is a common sentiment that containers are well suited for building and delivering cloud-native apps. While the survey did confirm this sentiment with 44 percent of respondents indicating containers are used to support new cloud-native applications, it was surprising to discover that an even larger percentage of respondents — 52 percent — indicated containers are being used to support traditional enterprise applications. Additionally, 46 percent of respondents told they use containers for IoT or machine to machine environments, and more than 50 percent deploy containers with virtual machines. We believe these results indicate containers are already playing a key role in helping to modernize and streamline delivery of traditional applications – the payoff being more efficient operations and infrastructure utilization for traditional applications.

These survey results align with recent data provided by Docker during this year’s DockerCon event. Docker reported that 50 percent of its users start using containers to improve the delivery of traditional applications. View the DockerCon 2017 keynote at the 10:00 mark to learn more. In addition, Docker recently introduced the Modernize Traditional Applications Program to help enterprises make their existing legacy apps more secure, more efficient, and portable, without modifying source code or re-architecting the application.

Surprise: Only 48 percent are using microservices

A surprise uncovered by the survey is that microservices adoption lags significantly compared to current use of containers. The survey found that only 48 percent of container users are currently leveraging microservices. We expected microservices adoption to be much higher. In many ways, containers are standards based wrappers that can be used to envelop microservices, making them easier to distribute, deploy, and orchestrate on any platform. While still somewhat nascent, current thinking is that microservices and containers are a match made in heaven and should be deployed together.

We interpret the slower adoption rate of microservices is likely related to the fact that many organizations are using containers to deploy traditional applications first, with plans to implement cloud native applications coming later. Also, adopting microservices architectures requires a significant change for code development teams and involves a significant learning curve. With all the forces currently impacting IT, such as DevOps, cloud, and becoming agile, it is easy to see how microservices adoption could be a lesser priority these days.

Containers and cloud native platforms go together

The research results indicate 78 percent of respondents are provisioning and managing containers with cloud native platforms and PaaS environments. Clearly many organizations are leveraging pre-packaged integrated application systems (examples include Pivotal Cloud Foundry, Red Hat OpenShift, and Scalr) to build, orchestrate and manage containers. While it is possible to leverage a collection open source tools and technologies in a “do-it-yourself” model for orchestration and management of containers. This is a somewhat daunting task for many organizations and is made all the more complex by the rapid evolution of these tools and resulting complicated dependencies that need to be managed.

We can expect this trend of leveraging “opinioned” or ready-made cloud native software stacks for supporting containers to accelerate as many organizations are choosing to focus effort and investment on building compelling new applications versus investing time, people talent, and budget in building out and maintaining the multiple tool chains and technology environments required to operationalize containers and microservices.

Thanks to containers, a longstanding software development objective of “write once, run anywhere,” is becoming more readily achievable. We think our survey work with Forrester clearly shows that containers are helping with traditional application modernization now and are a key foundation for the creation new cloud native applications. At Dell EMC we believe containers, microservices, and virtual machines will co-exist, as each provides a combination of benefits and trade-offs, and we can expect to see cloud, containers, and microservices all playing significant roles in the future of IT.

The survey results reviewed in this post are just a small sample. To learn more and view the entire set of results, please download Forrester’s survey study here. Dell EMC is actively contributing to the development and refinement of containers and microservices technologies.

Learn more with these resources:

{Code} by Dell EMC

Dell EMC Native Hybrid Cloud

Pivotal Cloud Foundry


Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry Foundation


About the Author: Brent Doncaster

Brent Doncaster - Senior Strategist, Product Marketing Leveraging his 20+ years of technology experience into the creation of portfolio messaging for Dell EMC Cloud Solutions in support of global marketing campaigns and initiatives in Dell EMC’s Integrated Solutions Group. Twitter: @Brent_BWD