One container technology does not fit all enterprises

This application-portability technology is hot for good reason, but its benefits aren't universal or guaranteed

Container technology is the most recent trend in cloud computing. Last month, CoreOS announced Rocket, its new container. Rocket competes with the megahyped Docker, which is adding a container management service called Swarm. Don’t forget that Google, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft have their own container strategies, as does pretty much every startup jumping onto this bandwagon.

Trouble arrives when you consider that enterprises don’t really understand what containers are or what containers do -- at least, not yet. The hype around containers does not necessarily translate into obvious use cases or into an understanding of their business value.

Certainly, containers can deliver value to enterprises around application portability, as well as offer architectural advantages.

The portability comes from the fact that the applications exist within an abstraction layer (the container), so it’s easier to move the application from platform to platform or cloud to cloud. The idea is that you build it once and run it anywhere.

If you think you’ve heard that pitch before, you’re right. Pretty much every push for application portability, including frameworks and distributed objects, made the same “write once, run anywhere” claim. The good news is that containers can deliver on that claim.

There's an architectural advantage, too. Containers provide mechanisms to hold portions of the applications inside, then distribute them across private or public clouds, from the same vendor or from different vendors. Thus, the application components can reside on the platforms that best fit what they do.

Within the enterprise, you should ask, "What will containers do specifically for my enterprise?" In some instances, containers will provide a great deal of value. Others will get moderate value. Some will be no value. Find out what you're likely to get before you jump in.

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